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

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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

GROWTH IN DEMAND FOR TWO AND THREE-BEDROOM HOUSES
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.

GROWTH IN DEMAND FOR FOUR AND FIVE-BEDROOM HOUSES
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

GROWTH IN DEMAND FOR TWO AND THREE-BEDROOM HOUSES IN LONDON
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.’

GROWTH IN FOUR AND FIVE-BEDROOM HOUSES IN LONDON
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
INCREASE IN BUYER DEMAND BY PROPERTY TYPE – APRIL 2021 V JANUARY 2021
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.’

INCREASE IN BUYER DEMAND – APRIL 2021 V January 2021
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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VGP acquires French logistics development

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VGP NV and VALGO signed an agreement to purchase 32 hectares of land that housed the former Petroplus refining units in Petit-Couronne, near Rouen. This brownfield rehabilitation project is fully in line with VGP’s core expertise and strategy. Thanks to the six years ownership of the site by VALGO and its expertise in asbestos removal, soil and water table decontamination, in-situ waste treatment and development, this area has now become a suitable site for the development of new industries and business activities.

 

On the banks of the river Seine and close to the A13 highway, the 32-hectare area of land offers its future users a highly strategic location. Following the extensive depollution work carried out by VALGO, the site is now ready for redevelopment. VGP expanded into France only a few months ago and is delighted to start its French business activities in the dynamic Rouen Normandy metropolis area, via this major project. In total, around 150,000m² of land are set to be redeveloped to accommodate industrial and logistics projects, with work due to begin in 2023.

 

Jan Van Geet, CEO VGP, said: “VGP is delighted to begin its business activities in France on a site as exceptional as this one, with strong economic and environmental ambitions that are shared by both our partner, VALGO, and the local authorities. As the rehabilitation of brownfield sites is at the heart of our business, this project is a great opportunity for us to deploy our industrial and logistical know-how. The uncertain geopolitical situation and the rise in transport prices mean that companies are increasingly looking for local support to start their business. In this context, we strongly believe in the relevance of our integrated model with a long-term vision. We are now eager to get to work and bring all the expertise of the Group to the project.”

 

Francois Bouche, CEO VALGO, commented: “We are delighted that this huge piece of land has been sold to a major investor with experience in redeveloping brownfields in Europe. However, I would first like to celebrate the work of the men and women who worked so hard to make this colossal project a success. It took more than 1 million hours and over €60m in investment by VALGO to turn the page on over 80 years of refining on this site, which already employs 600 people.”

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Selling your home? Here’s how to make sure it has kerb appeal by sprucing up outside space

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As anyone who has indulged in the brutal ‘swipe left’ culture of internet dating will testify, you don’t often get a second chance to make a first impression. And the same is true when trying to sell your property.

That’s why what lies at the front of your house — be it lawn, gravel or flagstones — can play a major role in making a sale.

Indeed, having a pleasing ‘shop front’ to snag potential buyers scrolling through listings or even walking past outside can offer leverage to boost the asking price, says Colby Short, CEO of estate agent comparison site getagent.co.uk.

Dress to impress: Colourful flower beds transform the look of a cottage in East Lothian, Scotland

Dress to impress: Colourful flower beds transform the look of a cottage in East Lothian, Scotland

‘Homes that offer a front garden carry a 4 per cent property price premium versus those without, and that equates to more than £11,000 in the current market,’ he says.

So what changes can you make to the patch in front of your house to help improve the saleability of the property?

Some alterations are simple, entry-level innovations. For example, even the smallest swatch of grass should be mown and rubbish-free. 

In fact, bins and recycling boxes are often the first thing you see in a front garden, as well as the detritus left by squirrels who have curated bits of dinner from your bags of rubbish. But it’s easy to hide bins away in a box unit.

‘If you’re trying to hide ugly bins, how about building a bin store with a planter on the top, then you can have some gorgeous outdoor succulents and flowering alpines?’ says QVC UK’s gardening expert Michael Perry. 

You can also buy wooden bin stores from outdoor furniture suppliers such as Wayfair (from £125.99).

Meanwhile, hanging baskets outside your front door help to break up a harsh brick wall, says Sean Lade, of Easy Garden Irrigation.

‘Hanging baskets are an excellent choice for adding colour and scent to your front garden and soften the front of your house. They should be installed at eye level —about 5 ft off the ground.’

Hanging baskets add colour and scent to a front garden and soften the front of a house

Hanging baskets add colour and scent to a front garden and soften the front of a house

And think about replacing tired fencing or dilapidated brick walls with natural borders, such as Boxwood hedging, which will add visual interest and is also easy to prune throughout the year.

‘If you prefer a cottage garden appearance, then why not train climbing plants to create natural archways around your front door, porch or gate?’ says Deborah Cobb, product manager at builders’ merchants MKM.

‘Raised flower beds are also a clever way to add some natural foliage. If you fill them with evergreen shrubs, then they are an easy-to-look-after and low-maintenance option that will look good all year round.’

In terms of what plants to go for, Nicola Bird, founder of seed subscription service The Floral Project, suggests some annual flowers are perfect for planting at the front of your house if you’re looking to sell. 

‘They include varieties such as cosmos, phlox, zinnias and sweet peas — not only to bring a bright splash of colour to your front garden, but also serve as a great conversation starter with your potential buyers.’

Even if you don’t have a patch of grass in front of your home, there are other fundamentals which will help with the sale, says Jonathan Rolande, professional property buyer at housebuyfast.co.uk.

This includes jet-washing your path. And just before a visit from potential buyers, remove any vehicles, where possible, to help to create an impression of space.

‘Clean the windows, frames and front doors — and clean the house number,’ he says. ‘If the garden is mostly given over to parking, soften the look with pots and planters filled with bright flowers and attractive shrubs.’

 You may think your garden gnomes are cute, but to a prospective buyer, they can be just plain creepy

He adds that if you don’t have a lawn, terracotta planters on the front sills look great with fragrant plants such as lavender and rosemary appealing to the sense of smell, too.

If your front garden is really small, use decorative gravel such as pea shingle or slate chippings, suggests Thomas Goodman, property expert at homeowner and tradesman connection website myjobquote.co.uk.

‘This will give you an attractive, low-maintenance base for topping with a few nice plant pots.

‘Fix anything that’s broken, including gates, fences and walls. These detract from any nice planting and give the impression of a home that’s not properly maintained and is going to need work.’

Colby Short says some items in your garden should be permanently jettisoned to improve the chances of a sale.

‘You may think your garden gnomes are cute, but to a prospective buyer, they can be just plain creepy. The same goes for any large statues or display items, particularly if they are of a political, religious or risque nature.

‘When it comes to potential buyers, you want to present a blank canvas. But that doesn’t mean this canvas can’t look good and add appeal in its own right.’

On the market… with kerb appeal 

Buckinghamshire: This four bedroom semi-detached cottage is on the edge of Denham Village. The bedrooms are spacious overlooking front and rear gardens. Struttandparker.com, 01753 481 781, £800,000

Buckinghamshire: This four bedroom semi-detached cottage is on the edge of Denham Village. The bedrooms are spacious overlooking front and rear gardens. Struttandparker.com, 01753 481 781, £800,000

Suffolk: There are four bedrooms in this detached house in Old Newton. The property dates from the 16th century and has a thatched roof and mature gardens. Fineandcountry.com, 01379 646 020. £1.2m

Suffolk: There are four bedrooms in this detached house in Old Newton. The property dates from the 16th century and has a thatched roof and mature gardens. Fineandcountry.com, 01379 646 020. £1.2m

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Elephant Park expands its retail offer (GB)

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Lendlease has announced the openings of two new spaces at Elephant Park: all-day kitchen and bar RAREBIT; and community garden store The Nunhead Gardener.

 

RAREBIT – the all-day kitchen and evening dining, bar, and grocery store – has opened its first brick-and-mortar location on Elephant Park’s casual dining hub, Sayer Street. The brand-new concept has a menu focusing on British favorites including the Welsh ‘rarebit’, and its grocery stocks a range of independent wines, craft beers, and coffee from East London coffee shop, Climpson & Sons. This selection is complemented by cheeses from Neal’s Yard Dairy, charcuterie from London Smoke & Cure, and produce from Natoora.

 

The Nunhead Gardener is the latest brand to move from one of Lendlease’s meanwhile units into a permanent space at Elephant Park, following the likes of Dima Beautiful, Beza Ethiopian Vegan, and bar and bottle shop The Tap In. The 900ft² unit on Sayer Street stocks a selection of indoor and outdoor plants, as well as specialty gardening tools, seeds, and seasonal scented candles.

 

Guy Thomas, Head of Place Assets at Lendlease, commented: “Both of these openings speak to our core values at Elephant Park, with a commitment to providing our local community with uses that are independent, sustainability-oriented, and unique. The arrival of RAREBIT adds a new cuisine to casual dining hub Sayer Street, and The Nunhead Gardener’s revamped permanent space has created a plant haven that we know local people will love.”

 

Mark Angell and Will Nias, Co-Founders of RAREBIT, said: “RAREBIT is about bringing a modern, fresh concept to people who want top-quality food and drink. Whether that be for grocery shopping or sit-down dining, we are so excited to be welcoming customers through our doors at Elephant Park. It is such a buzzing area, and we are proud to introduce RAREBIT to this diverse and vibrant environment.”

 

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