The mantra for house movers before the pandemic was Location, Location, Location. But now, as people seek more comfort and security in their everyday lives, there’s a new call: Community, Community, Community.
Government figures show that after coronavirus hit the UK last spring, 64 per cent of adults said they supported their community by doing additional voluntary work; 63 per cent had checked on those living nearby and 37 per cent had done shopping or other tasks for older neighbours; all big increases on levels before the crisis.
‘A real sense of community has climbed the list of priorities for housebuyers and for many is now a must-have rather than a would-like,’ says Rachel Johnston, of Stacks Property Search, a buying agency. ‘Buyers are doing surgical research into what a community offers.’
One for all: Cafes and the market in Shropshire’s Ludlow – a town with a long-standing foodie tradition and a community group
As well as more space both indoors, for an office, and outdoors in the fresh air, today’s buyers want something extra – the security of an active neighbourhood.
Here are some of the best examples of communities in action…
The historic estuary town of Topsham, near Exeter in Devon, where house prices average £545,000, is a flurry of sailing and activity groups and has a strong community vibe, too.
The Love Topsham volunteer group, funded by residents’ and shops’ donations, has installed waterside benches to help cafes and restaurants unable to allow customers inside.
The group also operates a website publicising ad-hoc menus and deals from local businesses, set up the Christmas lights and ran a programme of street musicians to entertain socially distanced shoppers waiting in line.
Estate agents say the county of Hampshire is a new hotspot for Londoners quitting the capital and seeking a thriving community spirit.
‘The village of Abbotts Ann near Andover has a village shop run by the community providing a hub where villagers interact safely,’ says Ben Home of Middleton Advisors, a buying agency.
Emma Seaton, of Prime Purchase, adds: ‘There’s been a surge in WhatsApp groups in our village. People we didn’t even know lived there were suddenly in need of a prescription or milk, which neighbours were more than happy to assist with.’
Todmorden may look familiar to viewers of the Happy Valley TV series, but the village is a hive of community groups in its own right.
One of the best known is Incredible Edible, which was set up a decade ago to promote veg-growing on open spaces and has Prince Charles as an early supporter. Now dozens of other Incredible Edible groups operate across the country.
‘The community buzz created by this and other groups has attracted people to this part of Yorkshire,’ says Gavin Keen, a property consultant based in Manchester, 25 miles south of the town.
A Good Neighbour Scheme was set up in Byfield before the pandemic, but now it’s become a Covid-safe help network. Requests from those needing assistance come in via WhatsApp and are then distributed to a community of more than 40 ‘hunter-gatherers’.
One of those already going out for, say, family shopping then agrees to get additional items for those making the request. Then each afternoon there’s a delivery run to drop off the medicines or foodstuffs.
The combination of community spirit and keen house prices, Zoopla says the Byfield average is £360,000, makes this village in strong demand say local estate agents.
Full of flavour
Ludlow in Shropshire is a town with a long-standing foodie tradition and a community group, Local To Ludlow, which featured on the BBC’s The Farmers’ Country Showdown.
The group runs a cafe and shop, a produce market that’s been open through lockdown, plus a farmers’ market majoring on food and drink from within a 30-mile radius.
Local To Ludlow also operates Easy Peasy cookery, a project that delivers educational sessions at schools and local events.
House prices are relatively low, an average of £310,000, but expect that to change as community becomes more key.
The housing market in Huddersfield saw a 3 per cent price rise in 2020 – perhaps due to the town’s amazing camaraderie.
The Community Mutual Aid Support Group started off last spring with more than 700 volunteers willing to help with shopping, befriending and posting mail for those shielding in this part of Yorkshire.
Recently, it’s been collecting used laptops for children who are being home-schooled.
On the market… in a friendly spot
Devon: A stroll away from the Exe estuary in Topsham, this Grade II-listed house has three bedrooms. There is a garden and a double garage. East of Exe, 01392 877 240. £850,000
Northamptonshire: The thatched roof is just one of many character features in this four-bedroom cottage in Byfield, with a large garden and an outhouse. Fine and Country, 01295 987 064. £550,000
Shropshire: In the centre of Ludlow, near a daily market, this house has three bedrooms, several ornate fireplaces and beamed ceilings. Strutt and Parker, 01584 544 004. £525,000