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City flats back in demand after return to office

For Sale and To Let signs outside a block of flats

More than two years since the start of the pandemic, how has the housing market changed?

Covid lockdowns and the switch to working from home brought about a 'race for space' as homeowners in cities sought out larger properties in the countryside and in coastal areas.

But while some shifts in demand are still very much evident in the current market, a new analysis by Rightmove suggests that other trends are starting to reverse.

For instance, the property website says that with many workers returning to the office, at least for part of the week, demand is growing again for houses and flats in big cities.

"Many people started the year needing to prioritise being closer to work over having more space," explained Rightmove property expert Tim Bannister. "This has contributed to a rise in enquiries from people in more rural areas to cities, and a drop in the number of people looking to escape to the country."

Rightmove has seen a 50% increase in rural home-movers looking to move into some of Britain's biggest cities, including Bristol, Liverpool and London, compared to the lockdown period of January 2021.

Notably, flats are in demand -- including three-bedroom flats that will give some buyers an extra room to work in.

And with the return of more regular commuter journeys there has been an increase in searches for homes near train stations.

Meanwhile, people have been expanding their searches across a wider area to find the right property -- suggesting that house-hunters are willing to move further away to find a home that ticks certain boxes, such as green space or an extra bedroom to turn into a home office.

House-hunters have been widening their search locations by up to 58 square miles. In a competitive housing market, this could make all the difference to help you find 'the one', Rightmove said.

In fact, buyers these days have got a clearer idea of what they want when searching for a property.

Before the pandemic, most people looking for a home on Rightmove didn't limit their search to a specific property type, and instead would be open to considering, for example, either a terraced home or a detached house. Now, shifting priorities mean that searches for just one property type are the most common.

Home-movers are also tightly focusing their search criteria when it comes to the number of bedrooms and whether a property has a garage or outside space. Gardens in particular have moved up the priority list for many buyers, with a 70% increase in searches for gardens compared to two years ago.

The latest data from the Land Registry shows that house prices rose by 0.3% on average from February to March. On an annual basis, house prices were up 9.8% -- taking the average price across the UK to £278,436.

House price growth was strongest in the East Midlands, where prices increased by 12.4% in the year to March 2022. The lowest annual growth was in London, where prices rose by 4.8%.

Posted by Fidelius on May 23rd 2022

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