Lockdown has produced a new phenomenon – city escapees. The requirement to work from home has shown many people, and their employers, how easy it is to manage a remote workforce. And working from home has forced many individuals to look at something they may not have really seen before – their local environment. Commuters are used to working long hours and not seeing much outside their home, whilst getting very familiar with the coffee shops, bars and eateries around their workplace. All that has changed. We’ve become hugely aware of our personal space, but also the spaces around us, parks, paths, and open spaces have become as well-known as our bedrooms. And if our homes are small, and our green spaces congested, we’ve started to yearn for wider horizons, extra space and the ability to ‘get away’.
Brits leave cities for rural life
COVID-19 has accelerated an already established migration away from London. In 2019, ONS data showed that for every nine adults moving to the capital, 10 were moving out. It doesn’t sound that significant, does it? But essentially that means London has been losing around 83 workers every day. Why?
- Well, Coronavirus, of course. But that’s not enough to explain why 26% of us are looking again at where we live.
- Young people recognise that they can live more cheaply outside cities, but they also know that their mental health is likely to be better for longer, which means over a lifetime, they are likely to enjoy better health, stronger relationships and greater life satisfaction if they aren’t coping with the stresses of city life.
- The tendency of younger people to value experiences over possessions has played a part too – from forest bathing to body surfing, under thirty-fives are more likely to look at their locality as a source of physical stimulation and pleasure, rather than planning an annual holiday to fulfil those aspirations.
- Older people also see that city life can be demanding – bungalows in coastal areas expose people to fewer hills and stairs, and the slower pace of life can be easier to handle if you’re dealing with a physical slowdown or cognitive difficulties.
Where to move if you’re a city escapee
Seaside resorts have been the biggest winners – especially as Victorian resorts often have bigger houses with higher ceilings, so even if they’re flat conversions they give that sense of spaciousness that many lockdown sufferers have come to crave. Given this trend, plus our increasing recognition that green spaces can improve our wellbeing, it’s no surprise that rural areas have become a big pull. Villages are more popular than market towns and harbour towns in Devon and Cornwall top the table for house searches, although that may be more a dream than a real plan to relocate to the West Country.
The ups and downs of UK housing market
When the housing lockdown ended in May, there was a huge surge towards smaller towns and villages as desirable places to live. However, there’s a couple of downsides – first, house prices are likely to be lower in 2021 as job losses and the scaling back of overall economic activity combine to depress the market. Second, demand may exceed availability, especially if people are trying to sell their own town homes to move to the country. Third, nervous lenders are limiting mortgage offers to people lacking good equity to reduce risk in an expected economic downturn.