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Record number of city-dwellers are relocating - but where to?

Looking for an investment property outside of London? Now might be the perfect time to do so as the demand for regional properties, particularly those located in commuter towns, has drastically increased.

Estate agency Hamptons has found that an estimated 73,950 property buyers left London in 2020 in a four-year high, with people leaving the capital for the commuter belt. This is the highest total of city dwellers leaving London since around 78,170 properties were bought elsewhere in Britain by London leavers in 2016. Whilst Kent and Surrey are particularly sought after, some city dwellers are seeking a completely fresh start, considering smaller market towns in areas such as Gloucestershire.

With the additional rise of home offices, many professionals have realised that they don’t have to be located close to work. A recent survey by Deloitte reveals that 97% of chief finance officers expect more flexible and home working in the long-term. This is expected to lead to a five-fold increase in the number of people clocking in from their spare room, taking the share of remote workers up from 5pc in 2019 to about 25pc in 2025.


Clearview Developments, a boutique property developer confirms that their project Bargate House in Guildford has sold 50% within a time frame of only 2 weeks, whilst an additional 25% have received offers. Clearview’s sales boost reflects additional figures, recently published by Rightmove, which saw the number of enquiries from London residents looking for a village lifestyle rise by 144%.

Jason Tema, director at Clearview Developments, comments: “The demand for Bargate House in Guildford has been overwhelming. Although we have always witnessed high demand from house hunters, we can see that the market has become extremely competitive due to an increasing number of city dwellers looking to relocate.”

“In addition, we have noted a stark increase in savvy investors who are shifting their focus from investment properties in London to the regional housing markets such as Surrey.”

Clearview’s other project, Broadwater House in Tunbridge Wells, is seeing equally high interest from property buyers. With completion due this year, the former 19th-century mansion gives buyers and investors the choice of 14 one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments, starting from £450,000.

Whilst the demand for properties in commuter towns continues to grow, for some city dwellers the pandemic presented the final straw to seek a life in the countryside or smaller communities further away.

Echoing this is Evan Maindonald, chief executive officer and founder of MELT Property: “The perception of the traditional commuter belt has changed with many professionals accepting a longer journey. As such, Gloucester, which is a 2-hour train ride from London Paddington station is now being considered by city workers as a suitable location and represents excellent value for money."

“We have registered an astonishingly high number of sales enquiries for our Lime Grove project in Gloucestershire from Londoners who are keen to establish a lifestyle in a location that offers more space, contemporary design, high-end fittings and fibre broadband. The additional stamp duty holiday further boosted sales enquiries as it has given house hunters the chance to find their ideal home at a lower cost.”

MELT secured planning permission to create Lime Grove; a residential community that puts particular emphasis on sustainability. Already incorporating the government’s Future Homes Standard 2025, which asks for new homes to be built without gas boilers, Lime Grove will be a completely gas-free development.

Additionally, all properties will utilise Ground Source Heat Pumps, a highly efficient, renewable energy source that has a low environmental impact and reduces carbon output by as much as 70%. With prices starting from £210,000, all of the 19 homes benefit from the stamp duty holiday and can be purchased using Help to Buy.

“With a third national lockdown and the introduction of Tier 5, investors are observing and speculating how this further drives the demand for regional housing. With the additional demand of the public to extend the Stamp Duty Holiday, we expect the uplift in sales enquiries to continue for at least the first quarter of 2021,” Tema concludes.

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