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Escape to the country?

As the lockdown begins to ease, we can all begin to breathe a sigh of relief as restrictions are gradually lifted and movement, not only across the UK but also to selected countries around the world, is again within our grasp.

Naturally, there has been a growing trend, particularly among city dwellers with restricted access to open space, to look at moving to the country. The promise of a rural existence has led to a frenzy of activity to purchase property from people looking for more inside and outside space.

Evidence of people moving out of cities to towns and villages is one of a number of reasons for house price rises in rural areas, according to the Resolution Trust, an independent think-tank. It claims that property values in less densely populated areas have risen almost twice as fast as in cities and towns. Their survey reports that since February 2020 prices have gone up by more than 10% in the country, compared to 6% for urban areas.

The government’s implementation of a stamp duty holiday allied to a mortgage sector awash with funds and rock bottom rates of interest, have also been significant drivers behind the boom in house sales, particularly in country areas such as Cornwall.

At the same time, the popularity of flats has also fallen along with that of smaller properties. The pandemic showed that those homeowners and tenants of larger properties benefitted from having more space indoors and in many cases the extra luxury of a garden, which has been shown to be of great benefit both physically and mentally during the lockdown.

In fact, according to the Resolution Foundation, one in five children in low income households spent the first lockdown in overcrowded accommodation, with overcrowding affecting all age groups more than they were twenty years ago.

Having looked at the triggers for this exodus, a necessary question is whether you are tempted to join in and start looking for property in the country?

If we look at places like Cornwall where many of us have either visited or have childhood memories of long ago holidays, we may have in mind images of shimmering seas, golden beaches and blue skies but does the reality live up to the fantasy?  Here are a few points to consider:-

PROPERTY – Property prices are currently exceeding all expectations. Estate agents are reporting that they have little to sell and what they do have in many cases is being bought sight unseen! Prices displayed by estate agents’ particulars have turned out merely to be a starting point and properties are selling to the highest bidder. The situation can’t go on indefinitely, but unless you have the cash to burn, it might be advisable to hold back until the market cools down. Cornwall’s experience is shared by many other locations, but these will vary.

AMENITIES – Many properties are being sold to those looking for a second home, but if your intention is to move permanently, before buying it is vital that you have amenities near you that you can rely on. How far from that beautiful cottage do you have to go for food and essentials shopping? How about a GP surgery and how local is the ‘local school’? Will you need a bus service and how far are you from a rail terminal? If you are planning to work from home, has broadband reached your location yet and can you get a reliable mobile signal from your provider?

Lastly, it rains in England – a lot. That country idyll might not look so wonderful in pouring rain!

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