The number of homes sold in the UK so far this year has almost caught up with the number of sales agreed in the whole of 2019 – despite the total halt brought to the property market for seven weeks of lockdown.

Whereas in recent years a surge in sales has been led by London buyers, most of the home buying hotspots for 2020 are in villages.

The figures from Rightmove are the latest indication of an urban exodus following coronavirus lockdown, with people swapping city flats for houses and outside space in more rural locations as they look to a mid-term future with less or even no commuting.

The stamp duty holiday on homes up to £500,000, announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in early July, has kicked both buyers and sellers into gear with tax savings of up to £15,000 available until the end of March next year.

While some villages have seen more sales agreed in the first nine months of this year compared to the whole of last year, no areas of London have achieved the same distinction.

The strongest market in the capital is in Upminster in the borough of Havering on the Essex-London border, where sales agreed so far this year are up 42 per cent on the same period last year.

“The national sales agreed trend is an important and early indicator of future completed transactions and it’s encouraging to see that whilst it’s still playing catch-up, it has been improving at pace over the past few months,” said Rightmove’s Miles Shipside.

“National statistics are drawn from hundreds of local markets, with villages and market towns peppered across the country benefiting most from the post-lockdown boom in activity and a shift in buyers seeking out more serene scenery.”

The UK’s hottest markets

Fair Oaks, Hampshire

Sales agreed in Fair Oak in Hampshire – a 20-minute drive from Southampton – are already 27 per cent higher than the whole of 2019, with asking prices up six per cent year on year, at £364,000.

This puts the village at the top of the chart of areas that have seen the biggest surge in sales compared to last year.

George Barker, sales negotiator at White & Guard in Fair Oaks, said: “The pace of the market has been quite astounding, especially since the stamp duty announcement in July as our core market is selling properties between £300,000 and £500,000 where buyers can make the biggest savings.

“As we’re only a 15 minute commute away from Southampton, buyers can live in a more rural area but have a quick commute on the days they’re going into the office.”

Formby, Merseyside

In second place in the village sales surge is Formby in Merseyside, where there have been 12 per cent more deals agreed so far this year compared to the whole of 2019.

With an average asking price of £366,000, the leafy location is home to the most expensive street in the region. Formby is close to the coast but only a 20-minute drive from the centre of Liverpool.

Harriet Robinson, of agents Entwistle Green in Formby, said: “Bigger homes that last year were taking around three months to sell are now selling within days. Buyers are saying they’ve realised their current home is too small and no longer fits with their new way of life, now that they’re working from home a few days a week.

“We’ve a lot of local buyers but also people moving up from the south, as they can get a four-bedroom detached house for £500,000 up here.”

London commuter belt

The final three villages in the top five were all in the southern commuter belt – Welwyn in Hertfordshire, where the average house price is £692,000; Shenfield in Essex, where house prices average £766,000; and Kirby Cross, also in Essex, with an average house price of £308,000.

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