Demand for rural homes in Britain dropped as the pandemic trend of relocating to the countryside faded, according to real estate website Zoopla.
Enquiries for properties in areas of Kent, known as the Garden of England for its rolling hills and beautiful countryside, dropped by 0.5% in 2022 compared to the five-year average. In the wider Lake District national park area, demand dipped 5% compared to the same period, and in mid-Wales it fell 10%.
Zoopla defines “demand” as emailing or phoning an agent about a home for sale.
In April 2020, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, 46.6% of people in employment did some work from home, according to the Office for National Statistics. That figure rose to 57.2% in London, and there was an exodus from bustling urban areas as people sought leafy towns and coastal villages instead.
“Since the pandemic began in spring 2020, buyers – freed from the daily office commute – have been casting their home-searching nets further afield,” Zoopla’s Executive Director of Research Richard Donnell said in a press release.
Most people who started working from home during the coronavirus pandemic plan to work both at home and in an office going forward, according to the ONS data, and many companies have mandated a return to the workplace, which appears to have caused a pivot in the housing market.
“The dynamics that have shaped the housing market over the last 5 years are shifting. We expect affordable urban centres to fare better than average in 2023,” Donnell said.
The cost-of-living crisis has also contributed to the shift. Apartments are cheaper to run from an energy perspective, and on average, U.K. houses are more than twice the price of an apartment — the highest in 20 years, according to Zoopla.
Urban areas also tend to offer more employment opportunities.
A tricky environment for buyers
The Bank of England raised its interest rate to 3.5% on Dec. 15, pushing up borrowing costs for homebuyers. Both two- and five-year fixed mortgage rates have increased by more than 3% during 2022, according to Moneyfacts.co.uk.
The U.K. mortgage market fell into crisis in September following drastic policy shifts by then-Finance Minister Kwasi Kwarteng. Lenders pulled hundreds of residential mortgage deal offers as they tried to navigate the new economic scene.
Some market watchers are now predicting a major downturn in the U.K. property market as a result of the country’s weakened economy and sticky high inflation rate.