Londoners leaving the capital after lockdown driving East Anglian property boom, experts say

PUBLISHED: 19:13 17 July 2020 | UPDATED: 19:13 17 July 2020

Hannah Widdup, who moved to Woodbridge after lockdown.  Picture: PROMINENT PR

Hannah Widdup, who moved to Woodbridge after lockdown. Picture: PROMINENT PR


Property sales are booming in East Anglia as city-dwellers look to relocate post-lockdown, experts claim.

Scott Matheson-Barr from Gobbitt and Kirby estate agents. Picture: ARCHANTScott Matheson-Barr from Gobbitt and Kirby estate agents. Picture: ARCHANT

While the housing market slowed between March and May this year, in the last month estate agents, landlords and conveyancing solicitors have been busy across East Anglia.

Penny Gordon from Prettys conveyancing team said a number of factors are contributing to this.

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Estate agents have seen a boom in rentals as people test out new areas.  Picture: NICK FREEEstate agents have seen a boom in rentals as people test out new areas. Picture: NICK FREE

“People who live in London recognise that they can have more space and a better quality of life here,” she said.

“But even more significantly than this, many people have also recognised that they can work effectively remotely and this has opened doors. They have found that they can bring London wages to the countryside and seaside so they are actively seeking a better work life balance that allows them to leave behind the big smoke.”

The law firm has seen a significant rise in conveyancing enquiries and instructions in the last four weeks. Meanwhile, some agents in the East have had record-breaking Junes.

Alan Williams, managing partner of Fenn Wright estate agents, said: “We have seen a very strong resurgence in the market from May 13 when the market resumed trading.

“Pre-COVID the market was already showing signs of a bounce-back post-Brexit. That was curtailed by the pandemic but what we have found is that the bounce is back and this property sales boom seems like it will be long and sustained.

“There is certainly a mini exodus from the bigger cities but buyers leaving London has been a consistent trend for quite some time.”

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According to figures from the Office for National Statistics released last summer, 340,500 people moved out of London in the 12 months before June 2018, the largest number since the ONS began collecting data in 2012.

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But Scott Matheson-Barr from Gobbitt and Kirby in Woodbridge said he expected the pandemic to accelerate this further.

Based on the most recent house price index (HPI) data, property prices have fallen by 0.2% across the UK. But, he said, it is the stamp duty break that has had the biggest impact on people considering a purchase.

“The biggest rush of demand had been for homes worth less than £500,000,” he said. “An investor buying a home worth half a million pounds will now pay £15,000 rather than £30,000 in stamp duty.

“But actually we are seeing the biggest amount of enquiries on the rental side of our business.

“Renting a home in a new location is a great way to test the water before you buy.

“And with so many people working from home, there has never been a better opportunity to do this so we are being inundated with requests for properties on the Suffolk coast at the moment – most of which are snapped up the second they appear on our books.”

Hannah Widdup was considering leaving London long before the coronavirus pandemic. But the three-month lockdown finally persuaded her to make the move.

“I’ve always been a bit of a country girl at heart,” she said. “And while I love the city I was finding the overcrowded tube overwhelming and the anonymity of living in the capital was wearing thin.

The 38-year-old stayed with her parents in Shottisham throughout lockdown while continuing to work remotely for a design agency based in central London. Now, she has put her three-bed London flat up for rent and earlier this month moved into a two-bed home of her own in the heart of Woodbridge.

“It’s still important to me to be in London several times a week,” she said. “But by living here in Suffolk I am now experiencing a better work life balance, have a garden of my own and am rapidly becoming embraced as part of the community.”

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