Today’s home-buyers face a new problem. If they are considering moving to a different town, how can they distinguish between those town centres that will bounce back when the pandemic has passed, and those which will be commercial black spots? 

Several experts believe the answer may lie in our street markets. 

‘The wheel has turned full circle,’ says Joe Harrison, chief executive of the National Market Traders Federation (NMTF). ‘Now the big stores are closing, it will be up to the markets to help people through the coming recession.’ Mr Harrison says that markets have both a community and social value. 

Roll up: The busy Hexham Farmers’ Market in Northumberland, which runs twice a month

Roll up: The busy Hexham Farmers’ Market in Northumberland, which runs twice a month

Visit any thriving market and you will find Del Boy replicas building up bonds of friendship with their customers. Research shows they also bring in trade to shops nearby, known as the ‘multiplier effect’. 

In leafy Winchester, the different markets have boosted house sales. ‘The city has everything from its farmers’ market, which featured in Rick Stein’s TV show, to the Christmas extravaganza in Cathedral Close,’ says Patrick ­­Glynn-Jones, of Strutt & Parker estate agents (struttandparker.com). ‘They are always a topic of conversation when people look to live in Winchester.’

Mr Glynn-Jones says that the street markets are particularly popular at present, as High Street shopping is proving so stressful. 

‘Shopping in a market beats going into stores, which involves queuing and worrying about wearing gloves and masks,’ he says. 

Winchester’s desirability is reflected in its house prices, which over the past year are 2 per cent up on the previous 12 months. 

The average price of a terrace house is £521,000, and for a detached home £807,000. In Kings Worthy, a village to the north-east of the city, you will find a two-bedroom terrace home for about £300,000. 

A good street market is a shop window for the community, reflecting the passions of its residents. 

So when primary school teacher Shelagh Muchmore visited the charming market in the Union Street car park in Deal, Kent, last January, it sealed her ambition to buy a home there. 

‘It was such a lovely, eclectic mix of stalls,’ says Shelagh, 58, who has since bought a cottage in the seaside town for about £300,000, with a view to retiring there.

‘There was an artisan wine producer next to a baker, while a flower stall was next to one dealing in antiques, next to another selling fruit. It was so quirky, just like Deal itself.’ Shelagh also fell for Deal’s off-beat mix of architectural styles: Victorian cottages are found just around the corner from Georgian seafront villas. 

Silver House on Silver Street, an imposing, ­Georgian, four-­bedroom townhouse in a Conservation Area close to the beach, is priced at £825,000 with Bright & Bright (brightand bright.co.uk). 

We spend 32 per cent less when buying fresh produce at a market rather than in local shops, according to a survey carried out by NMTF in 2008. Farmers’ markets also compete more on quality. 

At Hexham Farmers’ Market, Northumberland, producers come from within a 50-mile radius of the town. Everything, down to that the last jar of chutney or jam, contains vegetables and fruit that are locally grown. The twice-monthly market, which is held next to Hexham Abbey, attracts both locals and visitors. 

With the average price of a house £237,000 — terrace homes selling for £186,000 and detached homes for £370,000 — Hexham is popular with lifestyle buyers and retirees. 

Number 15 Tynedale Terrace, a five-bedroom Victorian home close to the town centre costs £495,000 (­finestproperties.co.uk). 

Estate agents have been widely reporting a Covid-inspired exodus of buyers from the cities to country towns. Many are able to work from home, while others are still toying with a business idea which will allow them to live somewhere less vulnerable to future pandemics. 

For these entrepreneurs, a market provides an ideal testing ground for their new products. Innocent Drinks, Pizza Pilgrims and The Vurger Co are three brands to have found their feet in markets. 

Visit the bohemian Totnes market in Devon and you will find stall-holders selling all kinds of clothing, plants, antiques, collectables and hot food. Famed for its individuality (it even has its own currency), Totnes has a surfeit of prospective home buyers. 

The majority of sales last year were terrace houses, on average selling for £344,000. The two-bedroom Haven Cottage in ­Leechwell Street is for sale at £320,000 (marchandpetit.co.uk). 

So, what makes a street market so appealing? 

‘It’s the thought of strolling among the stalls, basket over my arm, to buy our fresh food for breakfast,’ says ­Shelagh. 

‘It certainly beats queuing at a supermarket till.’

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