A buoyant market sees rising house values with the South East of England leading the charge in the country sector.
From the latest Halifax index to the RICS index and research by Knight Frank, every indicator shows that the property market is enjoying a post-lockdown boom.
According to Halifax, property prices across the country have increased by an average of 8.2% since April 2020, the highest annual growth in five years, adding a theoretical £20,000 in value to the average property.
Their data is borne out by the latest RICS survey of estate agents across the country, which shows that price growth accelerated in April as demand increasingly outstrips supply.
“The number of new prospective buyers registering was the largest for the month of April in 14 years”
‘During the first two months of the year, rising uncertainty over new Covid-19 variants, the logistical constraints of home-schooling and an expectation that the original March stamp-duty deadline would be missed all contributed to a slowdown in supply,’ says Tom Bills of Knight Frank.
‘This created an imbalance in the housing market that has increased upwards pressure on prices. The shortage deterred some owners from listing their property because they were unable to find anywhere to buy themselves, exacerbating the problem.’
One of the drivers for demand has undoubtedly been the stamp-duty holiday, which is continuing ‘to add impetus to an extremely active market, magnifying the current shortage of available homes as buyers aim to take advantage of the Government scheme,’ according to the Halifax’s managing director, Russell Galley.
The relief is set to taper off from the end of June, but, notes Mr Galley, this is unlikely to reverse the market’s trend. ‘Low stock levels, low interest rates and continued demand are likely to continue to underpin prices.’
The country-house end of the market looks equally rosy: at Knight Frank, ‘the number of new prospective buyers registering was the largest for the month of April in 14 years,’ says senior research analyst Chris Druce.
Interest is especially strong in three regions: the South West, the Midlands and Cotswolds and, above all, the South East, where prospective buyers were up 103% over the five-year average for April (excluding 2020).
‘Haslemere, Tunbridge Wells and Basingstoke were the busiest locations in the South East,’ explains Mr Druce, with Stratford, Oxford and Cirencester leading the market in the Midlands and Cotswolds, and Exeter, Sherborne and Hungerford doing the same in the South West.
Looking ahead, Mr Druce agrees with Mr Galley that the tapering off of the stamp-duty holiday is unlikely to change matters, particularly at the upper end of the pricing scale, where its impact was always relatively more modest anyway.
‘When we asked more than 500 Knight Frank clients back in February what they would do if the stamp duty holiday was not extended in the Budget in March, 88% said they’d either continue with their purchase or look to renegotiate the price. Just 12% said they’d abandon their purchase outright’
However, he continues, ‘the phasing-out of the [relief] is likely to see a return to a more seasonal sales pattern in the country market. Compared against the very high levels of demand we’re currently experiencing, the situation may moderate towards the end of the year, although the adoption of hybrid-working is likely to ensure interest in rural living continues beyond the pandemic.’
Mr Bill adds that, with more properties likely to come onto the market in the coming months, we will see a greater balance between supply and demand, reducing price pressure.
‘We forecast 5% growth for UK property prices in 2021, with current activity levels normalising as the post-pandemic landscape materialises towards the end of the year.’
Properties in the most sought-after rural locations
This pretty, five-bedroom house, which dates from the 1930s and has been in the same family for more than 50 years, enjoys fine views towards National Trust land.
This striking Victorian townhouse, which has four bedrooms, combines a magnificent staircase, fine fireplaces and elegant cornicing with a new, Quaker-style kitchen.
This Grade II-listed house in Old Basing, which originally dates from the 17th century, has been enlarged and improve while remaining true to its period features, and now makes for an excellent family home with four bedrooms.
The former lodge to Avenue House, this three-bedroom property has many period features that have been combined by the current owners with rustic interiors.
Designed by HW Moore and built in 1897, this grand house has been modernised to create a 4,625sq ft home that’s ideal for entertaining.
With more than 4,000sq ft of accommodation, this delightful semi-detached house has the space and feel of a smaller country house, complete with established gardens.
This Grade II-listed Queen Anne house has three bedrooms, a home office and a 25ft drawing room.
This elegant Victorian house stands out for its high ceilings (10ft), large sash windows and delightful west-facing garden.
Pretty, four-bedroom Croft Cottage overlooks Croft Green, in the heart of Hungerford, and combines period features with modern comforts.
Catch up on the best country houses for sale this week that have come to the market via Country Life.
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