Buyers look out-of-city and home-movers determined to move post lockdown

  • 94% of buyers and sellers currently in market say they’re going ahead with sales already agreed or plan to continue post lockdown
  • Visits to Rightmove are up over 20% when compared with the first few days of lockdown as more people staying at home start to think about moving
  • Signs of a shift in prospective buyers looking to move outside of big cities:
    • Over half (51%) of property enquiries from Londoners are to homes outside the capital, up from 42% of enquiries last April
    • In Edinburgh, 60% of applicants plan to move outside the city, up from 53%, and in Birmingham half of people enquiring are looking further afield, up from 45%

The vast majority of buyers and sellers with sales already agreed or those hoping to move when lockdown ends intend to continue with their plans, according to data out from Rightmove today.

Most of the properties that were on the market for sale before lockdown have stayed on the market, with total available stock for sale down just 2.2%. A survey conducted on a live webinar by Rightmove this week asked people if their plans before lockdown had now changed. Four in ten (40%) buyers and sellers said they were going ahead as planned and over half (54%) said they had postponed their plans for now but were planning to continue after the lockdown ends.

This determination coincides with early signs that more home-hunters are researching and searching now in an effort to move home once the government signals it is safe to do so. Visits to Rightmove initially dropped by 40% at the start of lockdown, and have been recovering slowly over the past few weeks. This week they are up over 20% when compared with the first few days of lockdown.

Rightmove’s Commercial Director and Housing Market Analyst Miles Shipside comments: “The resolve of buyers and sellers to carry on with their sale is clear, whether it’s those who are going through the conveyancing process already or those who currently have their home on the market or want to buy when lockdown ends. The longer people are spending in their homes the more they may be considering not just a new home but also a new location, and are starting to research and search for their next move, leading to this slow but steady recovery in activity. It’s very early days for the market and will still take some months for the industry to find its feet but these signs are encouraging.”

There are signs of a shift in the percentage of people considering a move from the city they currently live in, with agents also reporting increased interest in smaller towns.

This time last year, 42% of Londoners enquiring about a property were looking to move outside of the capital, and this has risen to over half (51%) this April.

There is a similar trend in Edinburgh where 60% of residents are looking to move outside, up from 53% in April 2019. In Birmingham, half of those living there are enquiring inside the city and half outside the city, up from 45% looking outside the city last year.

There are similar shifts in other cities including Liverpool, Sheffield, Glasgow and Bristol.

Shipside says:”It’s not unusual for there to be a large proportion of would-be buyers considering a move out of a city if they’re looking for a more affordable place to buy for the first time or to trade up but get more for their money, but there’s been a notable shift during lockdown of more contemplating out-of-city moves. It remains to be seen how people’s commutes may change when lockdown is over. Some people may already be thinking of moving further out from their current place of work if they can perhaps work from home a few days a week, which opens up a number of new areas they had never considered before.”

Agents’ views

Reece Giles, branch manager at Douglas Allen Estate Agents in Brentwood, said: “We’ve definitely seen an uplift in people looking to move out of the more built-up areas from nearby London boroughs. Interest has kind of gone through the roof, really. We’ve got lots of potential buyers coming to us from places like Hornchurch, Upminster and East Ham who are looking to move to Brentwood. We’ve got lots more green spaces and you get more value for money here because we’re that little bit further out from London. I think maybe some people in smaller flats want to see what they can find elsewhere. The proof will be in the pudding, but from what we are seeing right now, it seems that people are genuine about wanting to escape the inner city because that’s not the life they want anymore. I think the market overall is still very resilient. Buyers and sellers who have their heart set on moving still want to move. We are doing online valuations quite regularly and I think people can recognise that this is an unusual break in the market rather than a downfall, so I think it’s unlikely we’ll see many price renegotiations happening.”

Helen Burley, sales manager at Fine & Country in Woldingham, said: “We’ve definitely seen a trend of people moving from the city to live in our village. The people that we’ve been speaking with since lockdown who want to move from London absolutely can’t wait to move to the village. When you’ve got kids in lockdown that dream of having a big garden becomes even more important. I think this whole situation is making people reassess what is important in their home life. I think they’re seeing that there is more to a house than they previously thought. Out here your money goes further. In London you’ve generally got smaller houses and smaller gardens, but here we’re only 30 minutes from Victoria station, yet you can get houses with lots of acreage, countryside views and period properties.”

Mark Collins, owner of Collins Independent Estate Agents in Guildford, said: “I’ve heard of a lot of people paying for short term lets in Surrey for six months just to get out of the city. We’ve seen lots of interest in the sales side from people up in London. People are realising that they don’t need to be in the thick of it to be operational. People are naturally working from home more, because it’s been made possible. Our registrations are up and I definitely think the trend of people moving out of London will continue.”


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