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Country market insight
Spring 2021

With around 300,000 fewer people choosing to put their home onto the market in the year since the pandemic started compared to the 12 months previously, home hunting has become an increasingly competitive activity. Across towns and villages throughout the country, which have been at the top of a growing number of buyers wishlists, there are 20% fewer homes for sale than a year ago.

But who are the sellers who have decided to stay out of the market? Our research shows that since the market re-opened back in May last year, it has been increasingly dominated by younger sellers looking to upsize. Nationally the average age of a vendor fell from 54 to 50 over the course of just a few months, while in the country it dropped from 57 to a little over 51. With older sellers more likely to be shielding or simply not yet willing to move home, it means the current cohort of sellers are typically a move earlier in their property journey, more likely to be selling a slightly smaller home.

This shift has reversed a decades long trend which has seen the average age of someone selling their home increase. As fi rst-time buyers have got steadily older, younger people who tend to move home more often have become more likely to be renters rather than homeowners. The pandemic induced race for space marks the first time that the average age of a seller has fallen compared with the previous year.

This younger profile of seller over the last 12 months also means there has generally been less cash in the marketplace, with these homeowners less likely to have paid off their mortgage. In the second half of 2020, cash buyers accounted for just 28% of sales nationally, the joint lowest proportion on record. Despite falling numbers of cash purchases, rural markets are still heavily cash driven. 12 of the 13 local authorities where cash accounted for more than half of all sales were exclusively rural, with the exception of Kensington and Chelsea.

However since the turn of the new year as vaccination numbers have ticked upwards, so too have the number of older movers who feel increasingly confident about having people view their home. We have started to see sellers in their sixties and seventies return to the market in far greater numbers, suggesting that after a year of sitting tight, like so many other people, lockdown has changed what they want from their home.

Fifty is the new Thirty

In the weeks and months after the market reopened in May, many Londoners took the opportunity to leave the capital. While this is nothing new, with around 350,000 Londoners moving out each year, the onset of the pandemic and people’s ability to work remotely has given them licence to move further than ever before.

While back in May few could guess how the course of the pandemic would play out, one year on there are few signs of migration patterns returning to normal. With companies becoming increasingly flexible about where employees chose to work, ex-London commuters who might in the future have to travel into the offi ce one or two days in a week rather than five, are rapidly redrawing the geography of the commuter belt.

With a few exceptions, the longer it takes to travel to London (and the more expensive it is), the fewer homes Londoners buy. For example, in 2019 Londoners bought 31% of homes sold near a station within 30 miles of the capital. However, since the onset of the pandemic Londoners have bought a similar proportion of homes near stations within 50 miles of the capital – 20 miles further. There has also been a small uptick in homes bought near stations by Londoners more than 90 miles away but less than 100, which has been driven by Londoners swapping the capital for places as far as Birmingham.This shift means more Londoners moving out and travelling further than ever before, with many only planning to commute in a couple of times a week. A 50 rather than 30-mile commute is equivalent to travelling into the capital from Banbury rather than Brighton, while gaining an extra bedroom in a similarly priced house.


While the local station may not be the draw it once was, with buyers more interested in what is on the high street and getting a larger home, it remains important. More Londoners still buy commuter belt homes within a mile of the station than they do homes further away in rural corners of the countryside. 30% of homes near a station within 50 miles of the capital are sold to Londoners, compared to just 18% of homes which are more than a mile from the station.

The shift away from daily commuting has driven the first serious extension of the commuter belt since the expansion of the motorways in the early 1960s. While making the move to the outer fringes of the enlarged commuter belt last May might have been considered pioneering, many more people have followed suit. With flexible working looking like it is here to stay, the expansion of the commuter belt is set to become permanent.


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