Are more Londoners moving out of the capital as a result of Covid-19?

Since lockdown began in March this year, we have generally all spent far more time at home than we would usually as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It has given us time to think, consider and explore not only the space we live in but also the area we live.

Some have been luckier and more fortunate than others in this regard, and have more of a choice of wide open spaces within which to exercise and spend time outside. London parks have been so busy during lockdown, that some Londoners have complained that they have not been able to safely enjoy their precious time outside and keep to social distancing rules.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, will we see more Londoners decide now is the time to consider moving out of the capital in search of greener spaces?

2018 figures from the Office for National Statistics (“ONS”) already showed that 340,500 people moved out of London in the 12 months before June 2018, which, at the time, was the largest number since the ONS began collecting data in 2012. Popular destinations for people leaving London were Scotland, Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol with others choosing closer to London either within the M25 or just outside.

The reasons for people leaving London pre-coronavirus are undoubtedly mixed but high house prices, pollution and crime rates are likely to have played a part. It is a tricky question to answer as we do not really have the data on “why” people are tending to leave London but will one of the reasons now be in case we have another lockdown in the future?

I wonder, now people have experienced “working from home” for the last 8 weeks or more and seen that it can work productively, efficiently and be a benefit to their lifestyle, they may decide they do not need to spend so much time in the office. As a result, people now may feel high London house prices, travel costs and lack of open spaces are no longer for them and that the time is right for a move to the countryside.

How has the coronavirus outbreak promoted moving to the countryside?

The news has reported firms such as Twitter may “allow remote working forever” and BT is “striving to offer colleagues the option to work from home”. What everyone seems to agree on is that post lockdown working life is likely to have changed for the better. Firms seem to be more open and willing to allow employees to work remotely for part of the working week. If Londoners are no longer faced with having to spend 5 days at the London office, now could be the perfect time to move out of London. Word on the local agent’s street is that there could be a return of village life with Londoners looking to sell or rent their London property and move out to the countryside.

More space, greener spaces and a decent broadband are likely to be high on a buyers list of priorities when looking to buy in a countryside location.

Estate agent country locations are high on the agenda for moving out of the city say estate agents

According to a new survey by estate agents Savills it found that around four in 10 would now find a village location more appealing than previously:

  • Space is a must have: 49% expect increased home working to continue post lockdown and 39% of the under 50s now want a bigger home
  • 40% of respondents more likely to choose a village location, and 1 in 6 ready for a longer commute
  • 71% of younger buyers crave more outdoor space and rural locations, while older home owners are more committed to downsizing
  • 54% of those with school age children now find the idea of a countryside location more attractive than pre Covid-19. 

It is clear that the current crisis has made people think more about the space they live in, the attributes they most value in a home and in some cases, where they want to live, all of which is likely to drive activity at the top end of the market as we come out of lockdown 

says Lucian Cook, Savills head of residential research.

Greater space has become a prerequisite for those anticipating increased home working and those with children, notes Frances Clacy, an analyst at Savills. More outdoor space and access to countryside are also likely to be of greater importance to parents looking for a new home.

Frances Clacy, an analyst at Savills

In addition, Marcus Cadman, Partner at Hill Clements, Guildford has noticed a number of London enquires coming into his office. He mentions:

Certainly for the short period of time we have been back at our desks and the enquiries we had during lockdown, about 80% had London postcodes. I believe that potential purchasers will be prepared to move further out and consider a longer journey into their place of work if they are only doing it 2 or 3 times a week.

Marcus Cadman, Partner at Hill Clements

In his view “There is also a common misconception that moving out to the country can inhibit business life as well as give the feeling of being cut off from the outside world. However advancements in technology should continue to dispel this myth.” The government’s amendments to the Covid – 19 Regulations on moving home have already come as a relief to those wanting to move home and it will be interesting to see what the next few months hold for us from a property point of view. Whatever the future holds the residential property team at Moore Barlow LLP is ready and able to help you with your move.

With thanks to Lucian Cook and Frances Clacy from Savills and Marcus Cadman from Hill Clements.