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Families escape to the countryside as first-time buyers return to the cities 



Families are escaping to the country and coast, while first-time buyers are returning to cities, according to new data on what buyers want as the property market booms.

It is the latest evidence of shifts in the buyer behaviour amid the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns, with families chasing suburban, seaside and village life and first-time buyers trying to take advantage of weaker city centre housing markets.

While families tend to be seeking more space at home and outdoors, first-time buyers are looking to set up home in urban areas, a pair of studies from property portals Zoopla and Rightmove show.

This three-bedroom house in Scarborough is for sale for £380,000 via estate agents Reeds Rains

This three-bedroom house in Scarborough is for sale for £380,000 via estate agents Reeds Rains

Rank Local Authority Region Demand growth for 2 & 3 bed houses* Average value of 2 and 3-bed house
1 Scarborough Yorkshire and the Humber 142% £197,000
2 Weymouth and Portland South West 115% £235,000
3 Forest Heath Eastern 111% £227,000
4 Falkirk Scotland 108% £142,000
5 Basingstoke and Deane South East 103% £320,000
6 Gosport South East 102% £238,000
7 Reading South East 97% £311,000
8 Harrow London 94% £578,000
9 Worcester West Midlands 86% £201,000
10 Redditch West Midlands 85% £219,000
Source: Zoopla       
* Demand growth for two and three-bed houses – eight weeks from 08/03 vs previous eight weeks 

First-time buyers are being bolstered by the launch of the Government-backed 5 per cent deposit mortgage guarantee scheme, while more families are heading out house hunting as coronavirus restrictions ease, the reports said.

Zoopla said there has been a 25 per cent increase in buyer demand in the past two months, after schools reopened.

It defined buyer demand as people who are actively viewing and engaged in finding out more about a property, such as through calls and emails to agents.

The property website said the rise was amplified by the announcement that the stamp duty holiday would be extended, along with the rapid vaccine rollout.

It said that two and three-bedroom homes – which are perfect for families – remain in strong demand across Britain, with the seaside resort of Scarborough seeing a 142 per cent increase in demand for such homes, the biggest of any area.

For four and five-bedroom properties, commuter favourite Cambridge tops the list with a huge increase in demand of 182 per cent. 

While property prices for two and three-bedroom properties in Scarborough are above the regional average, home hunters do get more bang for their buck with the Zoopla data showing that houses in this area are typically more spacious than those in other parts of Yorkshire.

There is no such luck in Cambridge, where the average home costs £685,000, but with its easy access to London and wide range of Ofsted-rated Outstanding schools, Zoopla said it is easy to see why the demand for family homes has been boosted by the return to school. 

At the same time, separate research from Rightmove suggested that city-centre living is staging a comeback, with buyer demand for flats increasing by 39 per cent since January.

York, Norwich, Sheffield, Birmingham, Glasgow, Cardiff and Manchester are among the cities that have experienced buyer demand in their centres increasing since the start of 2021, it said.

It added that while larger family homes have tended to be the strongest performers in the housing market over the past year, the focus is now shifting to flats.

This two-bedroom house in Weymouth is for sale for £237,000 via estate agents Austin Estate

This two-bedroom house in Weymouth is for sale for £237,000 via estate agents Austin Estate

Zoopla said that overall demand is highest in areas with house prices that are below the regional average.

Picturesque Weymouth and Portland, located at the southern tip of the Jurassic Coast, has seen demand for two and three-bedroom homes soar by 115 per cent since the reopening of schools.

Average prices in this area for this property type stand at £235,000, 15 per cent below the regional average in the South West.  

It is a similar case in Forest Heath, Suffolk where demand has increased by 111 per cent, and Falkirk in Scotland at 108 per cent, the latter of which is consistently one of the fastest moving property markets in Great Britain.

All these areas offer great value for money, with prices well below the regional average.

Rank Local Authority Region Demand growth for 4 & 5 bed houses* Average value of 4 and 5-bed house
1 Cambridge Eastern 182% £685,000
2 Angus Scotland 104% £276,000
3 Hastings South East 92% £416,000
4 Watford Eastern 87% £771,000
5 Wyre Forest West Midlands 81% £332,000
6 Stroud South West 80% £397,000
7 Horsham South East 79% £644,000
= Surrey Heath South East 79% £699,000
9 Teignbridge South West 76% £411,000
10 Stratford-on-Avon West Midlands 73% £517,000
Source: Zoopla       
* Demand growth for four and five-bed houses – eight weeks from 08/03 vs previous eight week 
This five-bedroom house in Cambridge is for sale for £675,000 via estate agents Sharman Quinney

This five-bedroom house in Cambridge is for sale for £675,000 via estate agents Sharman Quinney

Most locations that have seen the largest increase in demand for four and five-bedroom homes are located in rural or coastal areas.

Scenic areas in the South East – including Hastings at 92 per cent, Horsham at 79 per cent and Surrey Heath at 79 per cent – feature strongly.

In the South West, Stroud and Teignbridge feature in the top 10, with an increase in demand of 80 per cent and 76 per cent respectively.

Stroud is located near The Cotswolds and has good quality schools and green spaces. Meanwhile,

Teignbridge encompasses a wide range of pretty towns and villages, part of the Dartmoor National Park and coastline.

Other rural areas that feature in the list include Wyre Forest and Stratford on Avon in the West Midlands, well known for being the birthplace of Shakespeare.

Both areas have seen an increase in demand for four and five-bedroom homes at 81 per cent and 73 per cent respectively. 

This four-bedroom property for sale in Tiwckenham is for sale for £1,100,000 via estate agents Sne

This four-bedroom property in Twickenham is for sale for £1,100,000 via estate agents Snellers

London Borough Demand growth for 2 & 3 bed houses* Average value of 2 and 3-bed house
Harrow 94% £578,000
Bexley 82% £429,000
Merton 63% £539,000
Source: Zoopla     
* Demand growth for two and three-bed houses in London – eight weeks from 08/03 vs previous eight week

Zoopla suggested that there has also been an increase in demand for family homes in London.

Demand has increased most for two and three-bedroom houses in Harrow, which is up 94 per cent, Bexley at 82 per cent and Merton at 63 per cent.

These boroughs have become particularly popular among families seeking houses in the capital at more affordable prices, Zoopla said.

The largest growth in demand for four and five bedroom homes is in leafy Sutton at 57 per cent and Richmond upon Thames at 50 per cent, followed by Kensington and Chelsea at 50 per cent.

Gráinne Gilmore, of Zoopla, said: ‘The reopening of schools in early March was a key moment for the residential property market, alongside the extension of the stamp duty holiday, with buyer demand rising by some 25 per cent in March and April compared to the first two months of the year.

‘The data signals that in more affordable areas buyer interest is rising for two and three-bedroom houses. On the other hand, buyer demand is rising at the highest rates for four and five-bedroom houses in the areas where these homes are typically larger than the average signalling that a need for additional space is a factor driving interest in this segment of the market.’

Rank Local Authority Region Demand growth for 4 & 5 bedroom houses Average value of 4 and 5-bed house
1 Cambridge Eastern 182% £685,000
2 Angus Scotland 104% £276,000
3 Hastings South East 92% £416,000
4 Watford Eastern 87% £771,000
5 Wyre Forest West Midlands 81% £332,000
6 Stroud South West 80% £397,000
7 Horsham South East 79% £644,000
= Surrey Heath South East 79% £699,000
9 Teignbridge South West 76% £411,000
10 Stratford-on-Avon West Midlands 73% £517,000
Source: Zoopla       
* Demand growth for four and five-bed houses – eight weeks from 08/03 vs previous eight week
Property type Change in buyer demand April 2021 vs Jan 2021
Flat 39%
Bungalow 30%
Detached house 26%
Terraced house 24%
Semi-detached house 23%
Source: Rightmove   

Rightmove also measured buyer demand by the number of people contacting estate agents to request more details about a property for sale on its website.

The easing of coronavirus restrictions and the recent introduction of the Government-backed 5 per cent deposit mortgage guarantee scheme are said to be helping to boost demand.

A Rightmove survey of more than 1,000 first-time buyers found that nearly one in five – at 17 per cent per cent – are planning to use the mortgage guarantee scheme or are already using it.

The study also indicated that while the desire to move to a quieter location has been driving parts of the housing market during the past year, this is not as appealing to first-time buyers.

While more than a quarter – at 28 per cent – of existing homeowners planning to move in the next 12 months cited a move to the countryside or coast as their motivation, only 10 per cent of first-time buyers were considering doing this.

Rightmove’s housing expert Tim Bannister said: ‘These are early signs but they certainly point to some good news for city centres across Britain, with a number of agents now telling me they’ve seen a marked uptick in demand from first-time buyers, and they’re managing to sell city-centre flats more quickly than in earlier months of the year.

‘People starting to venture in to their local high streets and once again experiencing the buzz of their city centres, along with greater mortgage availability for first-time buyers, means city centres are staging a much-needed comeback in the market.

‘Right now some buyers are able to grab a relative city bargain compared to the heady price growth outside cities, but these early signs of demand could be the start of city prices rising again.’

City centre Change in buyer demand April 2021 vs Jan 2021
York City Centre 76%
Norwich City Centre 62%
Sheffield City Centre 57%
Southampton City Centre 55%
Leicester City Centre 53%
Newcastle City Centre 51%
Nottingham City Centre 39%
Leeds City Centre 39%
Birmingham City Centre 39%
Inner London 30%
Oxford City Centre 28%
Glasgow City Centre 28%
Liverpool City Centre 28%
Chester City Centre 24%
Edinburgh City Centre 23%
Hull City Centre 22%
Durham City Centre 17%
Cardiff City Centre 11%
Manchester City Centre 11%
Bristol City Centre 5%
Source: Rightmove   

Andy McHugo, of James Laurence estate agents in Birmingham, said: ‘Not only are inquiry levels fantastic, committed residential buyers are now returning.

‘The dynamic may have changed slightly, so apartments with balconies or terraces are proving popular, as are those with room for a home office, a second and third bedroom for example.’

He said large company relocations to Birmingham and entrepreneurial start-ups help make the city ‘an exciting place in which to invest, and indeed live’.

Steve Pymm, of Pymm & Co in Norwich, said: ‘The market has been crying out for 95 per cent mortgages for years, so since the release of these lower deposit-based products the first-time buyer is back and they’re snapping up apartments and starter homes.’

City centre Average asking price Apr-21 Average asking price Jan-21 % change
Leeds City Centre £159,972 £166,760 -4%
Sheffield City Centre £124,097 £128,606 -4%
Nottingham City Centre £178,390 £183,542 -3%
Cardiff City Centre £209,130 £212,521 -2%
Southampton City Centre £206,637 £209,586 -1%
Liverpool City Centre £161,860 £163,900 -1%
Birmingham City Centre £215,604 £217,524 -1%
Norwich City Centre £226,354 £228,258 -1%
Manchester City Centre £230,796 £231,766 0%
Newcastle City Centre £170,512 £170,148 0%
Hull City Centre £127,208 £126,776 0%
London (first-time buyer prices) £477,001 £474,950 0%
Glasgow City Centre £172,425 £170,291 1%
Source: Rightmove      

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Real Estate

Higgins raises concerns over volume of legislation received in recent weeks



Two Oireachtas committees are being convened at short notice to consider concerns raised by President Michael D. Higgins at the volume of legislation sent to his office in recent weeks.

In a letter to the Ceann Comhairle, the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad and the Department of the Taoiseach, Mr Higgins said an “overwhelming number of Bills” were presented for his consideration in the final two weeks before the Christmas and summer recesses.

“For example, in the three weeks since the beginning of July I have been asked to consider 19 separate Bills. Nine were presented on the one day, sharing a requirement to be considered and signed in the same seven-day period,” he wrote, pointing out that in the entire preceding six months, he was presented with 13 Bills for consideration.

Last year, 21 of the total of 32 Bills presented to him were sent in the weeks approaching summer and Christmas recesses.

“It would strike me, as President and from my years as a parliamentarian, that there must be a more orderly approach to arranging the legislative timetable that allows all legislators the time to consider and contribute to proposals before the Oireachtas without unnecessary time constraints and an unseemly end-of-term haste to have Bills concluded,” the President wrote.

“Having this vital work concentrated into four weeks of the year strikes me as being less than ideal and, I believe, unnecessary.”

Mr Higgins noted that little time was being given over in the Oireachtas to debate often “very important and far-reaching legislative proposals”.

He said the process has “been curtailed through the imposition of restrictions on time in one or both Houses”.

He said amendments put down by Oireachtas members were often not discussed, and those proposed by the Government were at times “carried without an opportunity for scrutiny or debate”.

The President noted an “unseemly end-of-term haste”to pass legislation and said a “real prospect” of having to convene the Council of State in the days after Christmas day to consider Bills had arisen more than once.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl, the Ceann Comhairle, told The Irish Times that the Dáil’s Business Committee and the Seanad’s Committee on Procedures would meet on Friday to consider the letter, and actions open to the Oireachtas to consider.

There have been renewed concerns during the lifetime of this Dáil about the use of the guillotine to force Government legislation through without extensive oversight, with several heavyweight pieces of legislation passed in a matter of days before the Oireachtas rose for its summer break earlier this month.

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Who do I need to notify if I move home?



Moving house is frequently said to be one of the most stressful things anyone can do.

The massive investment both financially and emotionally can take its toll, especially if the process takes months to complete.

It is why anything that helps to elevate some of the stress along the way can be hugely beneficial. This includes addressing some of the practicalities in advance, and having a list of who to notify when you move can help. 

We look at some of the organisations and companies who you may need to contact when you move home

We look at some of the organisations and companies who you may need to contact when you move home

Dozens of companies will need to know your new address, whether this is an insurer who may use them to help calculate your insurance premiums or a retailer who need to know where to send the clothing you ordered online.

Without updating them, you may endure a bigger headache from moving home than you had anticipated.

North London estate agent Jeremy Leaf, said: ‘When moving home, it is vital to plan ahead. Moving day can come upon you very quickly, particularly if there is a short time between exchange and completion.

‘Buildings insurance is the most important thing that needs arranging on your new property as soon as you have exchanged contracts.

‘Confirm your moving date with your removals firm and make a list of who needs notifying about your impending change of address – the electoral roll, the DVLA, Amazon and other delivery firms, particularly supermarket deliveries. The last thing you want is for your orders to turn up at your ‘old’ address once you have moved.

‘Don’t forget to change your council tax, while utility providers will also need informing, and given final meter readings. The more you plan ahead, the smoother the process will be.’ 

A checklist for who to notify when you change address can help to elevate some of the stress of moving home

A checklist for who to notify when you change address can help to elevate some of the stress of moving home

Tom Parker, of property website Zoopla, agreed: ‘Moving home can be overwhelming with so much to do. When it comes to notifying organisations, it’s best to divide it into digestible categories like work, household and vehicle.

‘Notifying your employer is a top priority, especially if your payslips are sent to your home. If you own a vehicle, ensure you update your driving licence, insurance providers and vehicle logbook.  

‘Make sure you also notify organisations like your broadband, utilities, insurance providers and council tax. Finally, don’t forget the small things like magazine subscriptions and store cards.’

Here we look at some of the organisations and companies who you may need to contact when you move home.


Perhaps one of the most important and probably most overlooked places that need to be notified of your change of address is HMRC, which needs to know for tax purposes.  

Similarly, your employer needs to know when you change address for your payroll, so that it can update your contact details.

In addition, your National Insurance number helps the Government to identify you and is used by the organisations such as the DVLA and HMRC, so this will need your new address attached. 


There are various companies providing services to your household that will need to know about your move so that they can update your contact information.

In some cases, you may end up continuing to pay for a service in your former home that you are no longer using if you fail to update these companies.

They include your cable or satellite provider, your phone and broadband company. It is also important to update your TV licence contact details, which can be done up to three months before a move.


You can update DVLA via its website and within two to four weeks, you should receive an updated licence and V5C log book documents for your car. Failing to update the log book could lead to a fine of up to £1,000.

You will also need to notify the supplier of your vehicle breakdown cover and your car insurer.


Most insurers take postcodes into account when calculating premiums and the cost of insurance cover, so they will need to be notified of your change of address. 

You may need to contact those insurers who provide cover for household contents, health, life, travel and your pets.


As well as your health insurer, you will also need to provide your address to other healthcare organisations.

For example, if you change doctors when you move home, you will need to let your old doctor know so that your medical information can be forwarded to your new doctor. This may similarly apply to your dentists and opticians.


Your gas, electricity and water suppliers will need your updated contact information, even if you are leaving them behind at the old property and taking on new suppliers.

It can take a couple of days for energy providers to update your information, so it is worth contacting your suppliers ahead of your move. However, you may be able to move your deal to your new property.

Make sure you take readings of your utilities on the day of your move so you can update your suppliers with these and only pay for the amounts you have used. 

Royal Mail’s redirection service may be worth considering as it forwards any post sent to your former address to your new address. You can apply for the redirection up to three months before your moving date.


There are several companies and organisations that fall into this category and will need to know your new contact address.

They include bank and building societies, your pension providers, loan companies, credit card providers and store cards. If you are on a state pension, the Government will need to know your new details.

Similarly, you will need to update your address for council tax purposes.

Others include your accountant as you don’t want important tax documents going to your old address (if you are not using the a postal redirection service). And don’t forget updating NS&I with your new address if you put money into premium bonds.

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Ireland ‘one of world’s best five places’ to survive global societal collapse



Ireland is one of the world’s five places best suited to survive a global collapse of society, according to a new study. The others are Iceland, Tasmania, the UK and, topping the list, New Zealand.

The researchers say human civilisation is “in a perilous state” because of the highly interconnected and energy-intensive society that has developed and the environmental damage this has caused.

A collapse could arise from shocks such as a severe financial crisis, the effects of the climate crisis, destruction of nature, an even worse pandemic than Covid-19 or a combination of these, the scientists says.

To assess which nations would be most resilient to such a collapse, countries were ranked according to their ability to grow food for their population, protect their borders from unwanted mass migration, and maintain an electrical grid and some manufacturing ability. Islands in temperate regions and mostly with low population densities have come out on top.

The researchers say their study highlights the factors that nations must improve to increase resilience. They say that a globalised society that prizes economic efficiency has damaged resilience, and that spare capacity needs to exist in food and other vital sectors.

Billionaires have been reported to be buying land for bunkers in New Zealand in preparation for an apocalypse. “We weren’t surprised New Zealand was on our list,” says Prof Aled Jones, at the Global Sustainability Institute, at Anglia Ruskin University, in the UK.

“We chose that you had to be able to protect borders and places had to be temperate. So with hindsight it’s quite obvious that large islands with complex societies on them already” make up the list.

The study, published in the journal Sustainability, says: “The globe-spanning, energy-intensive industrial civilisation that characterises the modern era represents an anomalous situation when it is considered against the majority of human history.”

The study also says that environmental destruction, limited resources and population growth mean civilisation “is in a perilous state, with large and growing risks developing in multiple spheres of the human endeavour”.

New Zealand was found to have the greatest potential to survive relatively unscathed due to its geothermal and hydroelectric energy, abundant agricultural land and low human population density.

Jones says major global food losses, a financial crisis and a pandemic have all happened in recent years, and “we’ve been lucky that things haven’t all happened at the same time – there’s no real reason why they can’t all happen in the same year”.

He adds: “As you start to see these events happening I get more worried, but I also hope we can learn more quickly than we have in the past that resilience is important. With everyone talking about ‘building back better’ from the pandemic, if we don’t lose that momentum I might be more optimistic than I have been in the past.”

He says the coronavirus pandemic has shown that governments can act quickly when needed. “It’s interesting how quickly we can close borders, and how quickly governments can make decisions to change things.”

But, he adds, “This drive for just-in-time, ever-more-efficient economies isn’t the thing you want to do for resilience. We need to build in some slack in the system, so that if there is a shock then you have the ability to respond because you’ve got spare capacity. We need to start thinking about resilience much more in global planning. But, obviously, the ideal thing is that a quick collapse doesn’t happen.” – Guardian

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