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Covid-19 could help reshape the lifestyle property market

As people forced to work from home during lockdown identify a new way of life and seek a healthier work/life balance, rural surveyors Davidson and Robertson predict the lifestyle property market could be set for change.

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Chris Edmunds, director of rural surveyors Davidson and Robertson, based in Cockermouth, Cumbria, said: “The lockdown, aided by the digital age and ‘time on your hands’ has led some to reconsider their lifestyle and their future property ambitions.

 

“At the start of this year, demand for lifestyle property in Cumbria and the Lakes continued to be steady, especially those with manageable amounts of land and well located with good access.”

 

Mr Edmunds said the firm, which has clients from across northern England and Scotland, said since the pandemic, new enquiries were coming in for properties which sit within a few hours of major cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle.

 

“In the last couple of weeks alone, we have had calls from potential buyers looking for rural properties in Cumbria, Northumberland and Dumfries and Galloway,” he said.

 

Relocate

 

“The desire to relocate is unlikely to be short term, and moving forward, digital connectivity is going to become more important so they can cut their commute and work from home.

 

“Connectivity is something we are always asked about.”

 

He said with many people working from home since the lockdown, many were appreciating the benefits.

 

“It is not just reducing time and cost of a commute; it is about reducing stress and improving the work/life balance,” said Mr Edmunds.

 

“Working from home has significant gains and there is an enthusiasm for spending more time outdoors, with its associated physical and mental health benefits.

 

Working from home

 

“With a glimpse of life working from home, there are greater prospects for lifestyle properties right across the North of England and Scotland - we see that as being a key motivator for moving further afield.”

 

Rob Hindle, executive director at consultants Rural Solutions, said as a result of this shift, acceptable commuter distances had lengthened.

 

“There are big decisions being made in companies, especially in London, about reducing the ratio of desks to workers, with some gong from 70 per cent capacity to 35 per cent,” said Mr Hindle.

 

“I think the days of employees travelling into an office five days a week are gone.

 

“This means the viable commuter distance is likely to get longer, with acceptable travelling distances which once stood at about one hour lengthening to two to two and a half hours.

 

“This is because employees are only going to be doing the commute 30-40 per cent of the time.”

 

Mr Hindle said this would create demand for lifestyle opportunities in areas ‘where they have not been felt yet’.

 

“This will bring farmers and landowners opportunities to convert farm buildings for sale and also for rent,” he added.

 

Self-build

 

“We are also seeing a trend in self-build, where parcels of land can be sold off individually to construct anything from modest housing to exceptional grand country houses.

 

“There has been a lot of activity in this sector in the last few years and local planning policy has been favourable towards people generating their own housing.”


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According to a recent survey from online mortgage broker Trussle, nearly a quarter of UK adults were considering relocating in the next two years.

 

As house hunting became a top lockdown pastime, the Lake District was named as one of top 10 places people were thinking of moving to – ranked number four on the list, behind Cornwall, Devon and Yorkshire.

 

Harry Morshead, associate at chartered surveyors youngsRPS, said the pandemic had highlighted the security of land as an investment compared to other markets.

 

Demand

 

“It is evident from our own enquires and recent deals that there is a new and extreme demand for rural residential property, be it to buy or to let.

 

“Lockdown in the urban areas has brought forward thoughts about one day moving to the country and home working has been shown to be very possible; provided of course the broadband is up to speed.”

 

The key characteristics to consider for buyers and sellers of rural lifestyle properties in the future now include:

 

  • Connectivity: internet speeds, mobile phone reception
  • Office space: accommodation that provides an office without compromising bedrooms or living space. If not possible, are there opportunities to convert outbuildings or space for an outdoor office
  • Outdoor space: garden space for raised beds, greenhouse, orchard, entertaining and relaxing
  • Land: possibility to have a pony paddock and stables, hens, or sheep
  • Buildings: opportunity to repurpose old buildings for personal use or ability to convert, subject to obtaining necessary consents, to generate a second income
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