Country houses for sale

Mass exodus to the country, WFH hotspots and what buyers really look for take centre stage in latest property research

Every day seems to bring some new angle on what's happening in the world of property, so it seems a good time to take a closer look at some of the facts and figures which are doing the rounds.

Estate agents may not agree on much, but they do all concur that the property market is flying at the moment. The reasons are reasonably clear: a combination of pent-up demand from the early part of the year, the Stamp Duty holiday and growing swell of people looking to swap town for country.

Last week saw some interesting research coming from Sam Butler of Cotswolds-based estate agent Butler Sherborn which re reported on in the Country Life Property Newsletter on Saturday (sign up here if you don’t yet get it). ‘Demand for country properties has been relentless since mid-May,’ said Sam, whose agency had 404 offers on homes from 1 June to 15 October, compared to 233 in the same period last year and 196 in 2018.

‘Buyers from cities including London want to find somewhere in the countryside, particularly in and around the Cotswolds and Oxfordshire. They are looking for space, somewhere suitable for working from home, fresh air for a healthier lifestyle and access to good schools in the case of young families.’

Knight Frank also shared research last week, showing a rise in asking prices of 8.4% for 3-bed homes in Yorkshire, which their Harrogate office unequivocally stated is as a result of ‘a huge influx of demand from the south’.

“Radiators, candles, bedding and even water pressure made the cut — were people’s eyes drawn to a gushing tap that had been left on?”

It’s always good to see research with real facts and figures to back up the blanket assertions — something we don’t always see. Take the case of a recent piece from comparethemarket.com who’d used eye-tracking equipment to produce a list of ‘top things that prospective buyers notice first’ when viewing a house.

An interesting idea in theory, but the list they generated contains all sorts of oddities which makes you wonder who was doing the viewings. Radiators, candles, bedding and even water pressure made the cut — were people’s eyes drawn to a gushing tap that had been left on? We did request further information or some stats, but were told none was available.

We had another example yesterday with estate agent Emoov producing a ‘top 10 property hotspots for home working’ listing, with things such as garden space, commuting costs saved and fibre broadband availability considered. Maidstone, St Helens and High Peak took the top three spots on the list… or at least they did in the press release. The accompanying graphic put Brixham, Knaresborough and St Ives on the podium; it took a while to figure out that the latter were the ‘staycation locations’ for working remotely, as opposed to the ‘property hotspots’ which had seen increased market activity.

The accompanying spreadsheet data threw up several more alternative ways of chopping the list up: Bournemouth, Poole and Bridlington topped the coastal top 10; Rye, St Agnes and Lavenham were the best villages. By this point we were thoroughly confused about what to make of it, and all the more so when we got to the final sheet of data: the overall top 10. Brighton was at the top of the list with 64.5 out of 90… which for some reason was 1.5 points less than second-placed Poole on 66, and 3.5 behind ninth-placed Bridlington… which may or may not be top of the list.

If nothing else, it teaches a couple of timely lessons for those who are thinking of relocating: don’t read too much into the headlines you read in the more excitable news sources; and when it comes to finding the right place to live, take your time and do your own homework.