Property searches surge in smaller communities as country escape continues

  • Areas with populations of under 11,000 saw the biggest uplift in buyer searches in September, as people look to move to smaller places in the countryside
  • All of the places where searches have doubled are small towns, villages and civil parishes, in contrast to searches being up 53% on average across the ten biggest cities
  • Similar trend for the number of sales being agreed by estate agents, with sales up 179% in Dartmouth in Devon and 170% in St Ives in Cornwall

The trend of more home-hunters looking to escape to the country or coast is continuing, with home-buying interest in areas with lower populations soaring in September compared to this time last year.

The analysis, from the UK’s leading property portal Rightmove, is based on 448 million searches by home-hunters across the month, and included all areas with at least 30,000 searches.

The findings reveal that the nine areas where searches have doubled all have a population of under 11,000.

Taking the top spot is Lightwater in Surrey, where buyer searches were up 130% in September compared to September 2019. The village has a population of under 7,000, and house prices range from a studio flat on offer for £155,000 to a five bed house with an asking price of over £3.6 million.

The list features small villages and market towns, such as Bruton in Somerset, where searches are up 128%, and Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds, with searches up 111%.

The percentage increase in searches in these areas is almost double the uplift seen across the top ten largest cities, where collectively searches increased by 53%. Searches in London were up 36%, and Bristol still reigns as the most searched for city outside London, with searches up by 54%.

The harbour town of Dartmouth in Devon has seen buyer searches double (+102%) in September, plus it is also number one for the biggest increase in the number of properties being marked as sale agreed by estate agents across all of Great Britain, up by a massive 179%.

Rightmove’s Director of Property Data Tim Bannister, explains:“Back in May when the market reopened in England we wondered how long the desire to move to the country or to smaller towns and villages would last. It’s clear that this short-term shift has turned into a medium term trend, as our data is showing that home hunters looking at what’s available are also turning into serious buyers putting in offers.

“There are a number of likely drivers of this change, some buyers are now more willing to have a country commute a few times a week, and others are preparing for social distancing to be here for quite some time yet, and so are being drawn to places with more outdoor space. Housing markets in some of the biggest cities are still busier than this time last year as the quiet life definitely isn’t for everyone, but they’re not seeing the same surge as these smaller areas.”

Locations where searches by prospective buyers have doubled on Rightmove


Increase in buyer searches

Sept 2020 vs Sept 2019

Population (2011 census)
Lightwater, Surrey +130% 7,000
Bruton, Somerset +128% 2,907
Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire +111% 2,288
Hungerford, Berkshire +110% 5,767
Sturminster Newton, Dorset +108% 4,292
Aylesford, Kent +105% 10,660
Shaftesbury, Dorset +103% 7,314
Halesworth, Suffolk +102% 4,726
Dartmouth, Devon +102% 5,064


 Biggest increases in sales being agreed by estate agents on Rightmove


Increase in sales agreed

Sept 2020 vs Sept 2019

Dartmouth, Devon +179%
St Ives, Cornwall +170%
Buckhurst Hill, Essex +164%
Yarm, Cleveland +163%
Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire +156%



Notes to editor

Top ten biggest cities are defined by number of properties, comprised of London, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield.

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