Scarcely two weeks since the housing market began emerging from lockdown and buyers are out in force. 

Well, not, perhaps, literally but there’s been a spike in online viewings and estate agents have begun to unfurlough staff.

Rightmove enjoyed 5.3 million visits to its website in just one day last week, up 4 per cent on the same day in 2019, and almost 11,000 extra homes were listed for sale on its pages in less than a week. 

With the housing market gradually emerging from lockdown there's been a spike in online viewings and estate agents have begun to unfurlough staff

With the housing market gradually emerging from lockdown there’s been a spike in online viewings and estate agents have begun to unfurlough staff

But, crucially, new trends have already emerged to reflect how our world is changing.

Goodbye cities…

Mark Unsworth, a graphic designer, lives in Ealing, West London, with his wife and three children under nine.

‘We planned to leave London and head to Somerset or Devon in five years, but coronavirus has made us think again. We’re moving later this year,’ he says, typifying a new determination found by many estate agents outside London and other big cities.

Estate agent Savills (savills.co.uk) recently surveyed 700 of its prospective buyers and sellers. 

Four in ten would now find a village location more appealing than before Covid-19 struck, while 54 per cent of those with school-age children said a countryside location would be more attractive.

And on Rightmove, in spring 2019 some 42 per cent of property searches by Londoners were looking at homes outside the capital; now the proportion is 51 per cent.

There’s a similar trend in Edinburgh, where 60 per cent of residents are looking to move outside, up from 53 per cent in 2019.

In Birmingham, half of those living there are inquiring inside the city and half outside the city, up from the 45 per cent looking outside the city last year.

‘The potential for a rural renaissance comes at a time when country property looks increasingly good value,’ says Savills analyst Frances Clacy. ‘Well-connected village locations, ideal for those who can split their working week between home and the office, are likely to be in particular demand.’

On the market… and on trend 

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…hello clean air

Even if you’ve got to stay in the city, there’s now demand for cleaner air and more information on environmental issues and greener living options for buyers.

Rental website SearchSmartly (searchsmartly.co), covering London, is the first in the world to display air quality ratings on every listing.

Using data from King’s College London, users can find details of annual average levels of air pollution at an address, and whether the property’s nearby atmosphere exceeds the World Health Organisation’s annual legal limit for toxic air.

Hesseltje S. van Goor, chief operating officer at the site, says: ‘Everyone has a right to know what they’re breathing. We call on other property websites to integrate air quality ratings into their listings.’

Many cities have seen dramatic air quality improvements during lockdown — Cambridge’s nitrogen dioxide levels are lower than the previous three years, for example.

However, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs says open countryside areas such as moorland, coastal resorts and National Parks usually have the cleanest air in the UK, although the weather can alter pollution levels significantly.

Green fingers

Gardens have always been popular, but now they’re a ‘must have’ when moving, according to many buyers and renters.

In the Savills survey, no fewer than 71 per cent of respondents under the age of 40 said outdoor space had become more important in their future property choices.

The Kings Fund (kingsfund.org.uk), a health think-tank, says about 87 per cent of UK homes have outdoor space of some size, but interest in gardens for growing food is booming.

The Royal Horticultural Society says its online advice pages have been viewed by hundreds of thousands more people than usual this year, with a 500 per cent surge in queries about composting.

Room for gran

Not being able to even see close relatives, let alone hug them, has been one of the most painful consequences of lockdown to many. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, agents say the re-opening of the housing market has seen demand increase for homes large enough for several generations of family.

‘I had two clients change their priorities during lockdown totally because they couldn’t be near their quite senior parents,’ says Clare Skeaping, a home counties buying agent.

‘So they went from wanting me to find a home large enough just for themselves and their children to wanting somewhere grandparents could live, too.

‘Either a complete house or one where a granny annexe could be added easily. The larger house is likely to become more popular and different generations of families will pool their resources to afford them,’ she predicts.

On your bike

A big selling point used to be a home’s proximity to a public transport hub.

In the long-run, post-Covid-19, that may stay the same, but for now living a reasonable cycle-ride from work will be key, too.

The Government is pumping £2 billion into creating pop-up bike lanes, wider pavements, safer junctions and cycle-only corridors as part of a drive to support safe transport during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, British cycling heroes Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas are starting a social media publicity blitz using the #GetPedalling hashtag.

What your home really needs is… an outdoor cushion 

Any seating is enhanced by a cushion or two, which is why they have been a decor essential since the time of the ancient Egyptians and Romans.

The word ‘cushion’ comes from the Latin coxinum, which means hip cushion, an item necessary to prop yourself up if you dine while reclining, as was the Roman custom.

Your home needs outdoor cushions to bring a shot of colour or pattern to your interior and breathe new life into tired garden seats.

Your home needs outdoor cushions to bring a shot of colour or pattern to your interior and breathe new life into tired garden seats.

The hip (as in fashionable) cushion of summer 2020 is the outdoor model, smart enough to adorn a sitting room sofa, but also sufficiently durable to be used on garden furniture for that relaxed outside look.

Your home needs outdoor cushions to bring a shot of colour or pattern to your interior and breathe new life into tired garden seats.

Some people make their own cushions. The marine blue Splash Outdoors collection of fabrics from Zinc Textile (from £57.50 per m, zinctextile.com) brings the feel of the beach to a suburban patio. 

Ready-made cushions come in every style: Moroccan at H&M Home (£19.99, hm.co.uk), bright shades and palm print at Matalan, (£8, matalan.co.uk), jungle print at Dunelm (£8, dunelm.com), beige-tasselled at Zara Home, (£17.99, zarahome.com) and the Merida reversible cushion from John Lewis, pictured (£12, johnlewis.com).

Whichever cushion you choose, relax, sit back and feel grateful to the Romans.

Anne Ashworth  

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