The effects of Covid continues to confound predictions. The post-Covid property-price rally has been one of the biggest surprises of all. But is it masking another phenomenon – a sudden enthusiasm for an escape to the country?
At Continuum we are looking at whether commuting is on the way out – and what that could mean for house prices.
Is working from home the new normal?
Since lockdown, many of us have discovered the benefits of working from home. It makes little sense to travel for two or three hours a day to stare at a screen in the office when we have one at home. We may miss the camaraderie of the office and the gossip around the coffee maker, but we don’t miss the commute.
Employers benefit, because working from home leaves us less tired, and that makes us more productive. If they can save on the high costs of city office space too, so much the better.
Many high tech businesses have shut their London offices for the duration, and may be looking at making working from home permanent. It is a trend which if continued will mean that tens of thousands of highly paid people will no longer be tied to living within easy reach of commuter transport.
What could change?
Since the property market reopened, the appeal of property near tube lines and in inner suburbs may have eased, while demand for rural homes has soared. The house price growth in recent years has been focussed on commuter areas. Go a little further, and it is possible to get a lot more home for your money.
Of course, this does not mean that London is being abandoned for crofts in the Scottish highlands. It simply means that many reluctant Londoners may be heading to the outer suburbs.
Property website Rightmove has recorded the biggest surges in demand in the country, measured by buyer inquiries, in the South East and East of England. It looks as though places less than an hour from the capital are among the most popular searches at the moment.
So what happens now?
While it currently looks as though there could be the beginning of an exodus from the traditional commuter hotspots to homes a little further out, it is too early to say whether this will really mean a permanent change to the market.
Certainly, lockdown has rearranged the priorities of buyers, who now want gardens, space and community. Without the daily trip into a city centre they can afford to live a little further out, where all those desirable extras can be in reach.
But if people are no longer expecting to commute every day, they will still expect to be in the office for a few days a week. The general sentiment seems to be that they are willing to look a bit further afield, but generally still want to be less than an hour and a half from their work for those days when they do need to come in.
Being close to the motorway system, and even more important to a fast rail link will continue to be key factors.
What does this mean to your property plans?
If you are thinking about a property investment, it might be tempting to think that a commuter town might offer new potential for Buy to Let. However, the appeal of a home close to the nightlife of London may still be just as great for younger people, who tend to be renters. Those who are looking for commutable homes will be families, who will appreciate the extra space and gardens, and who may be more likely to be home buyers.
But if you are thinking about making a move yourself, it might be time to act to secure the home you want, before the stamp duty holiday ends, and before another ex-commuter buys the home of your dreams.
This is where it pays to get some expert help from the Continuum team. Because we are independent, not only can we can search the entire market to find a mortgage that is right for you – and probably costs less each month – we can often help you arrange it faster.
So, if you are thinking about an escape to the country, make sure you call us at Continuum first.
The information contained in this article is based on the opinion of Continuum and does not constitute financial advice or a recommendation to suitable mortgage plan, you should seek independent financial advice before embarking on any course of action.
Your Home or property may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.
The Financial Conduct authority does not regulate taxation advice and some aspects of Buy to Let Mortgages.
The value of property investments and income from them can go down as well as up and investors may not get back the amount originally invested.
As property is a specialist sector it can be volatile in adverse market conditions, there could be delays in realising the investment.
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