Today holidaying crowds will gather in the sunshine on St Agnes’ beach for the annual Easter Sunday dog racing championships organised by the local surf life-saving club. The hounds have to chase a “grommet” — a beginner surfer — dressed as a rabbit. The local paper suggested that this year, after a two-year hiatus, the novice should be dressed as a second-home owner.
The joke is apt. St Agnes, a village on the north Cornish coast, scattered in the cliffs above a wide sandy beach, is at the centre of the country’s debate on second-home ownership, an issue that intensified during the pandemic as property values soared in holiday hotspots, pricing out locals.
The village’s anti-second home graffiti is almost more famous than its hedgehog ice-creams (smothered with farmhouse clotted cream and honey-roasted hazelnuts). The latest reads: “Second-home owners, give something back: rent or sell your empty houses to local people at a fair price. No more investment properties.”
This month, in a peaceful protest by the campaign group First Not Second Homes, residents, mostly female, carried homemade signs with declarations such as: “Evicted for Airbnb”, “Left job in NHS because nowhere to live” and “Cornwall has 15,000 families awaiting housing and 15,000 holiday lets.”
Type St Agnes into Rightmove and there are nine properties for sale, ranging from a three-bedroom bungalow for £425,000 to a grade II listed townhouse for £1 million — nowhere near the national average house price of £277,000, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). What is more, there is just one property for long-term rental, at £1,500 a month. Meanwhile, on Airbnb there are 154 properties to rent for a short stay. So tense is the mood that one local confessed that he was keeping quiet about selling his home to a second-home owner for fear of reprisals.
It is a story that is repeated across the country, from Falmouth to Filey, North Berwick to Great Yarmouth, Torquay to Tenby, fuelled in part by successive lockdowns and the chancellor’s stamp duty holiday. The market may not be quite as frenzied as it was at the peak of the pandemic, when gazumping and bidding wars were rife, but it is far from normal.
Property prices in the southwest and east of England have risen by 12.5 per cent in the year to February, beaten only by Wales, which registered a 14.2 per cent annual rise, according to data published by the ONS. In the same week a three-bedroom converted granary in Blakeney, a flint-flecked fishing village on the north Norfolk coast, went on the market for £800,000 and in less than 12 hours had five viewings. In Pembrokeshire a five-bedroom farmhouse with 20 acres near St Dogmaels went on sale for £1.1 million and sold for £1.3 million after a bidding war……
Carol Peett, the owner of the buying agency West Wales Property Finders http://www.westwalespropertyfinders.co.uk, has seen village schools close and bank branches shut, but does not believe that second-homers are to blame, pointing out that most properties bought as holiday cottages look idyllic, but are damp and dark with low ceilings and not what the younger generation wish to live in, or are more than £750,000 in areas with few facilities and have been used as bolt holes since Victorian times…..
…From April 2023 Welsh local authorities can treble council tax on second homes and empty properties. Carol Peett, owner of the buying agency West Wales Property Finders, is keen that homes under the average price for the county should only be sold to owner-occupiers, and that any affordable homes built should be offered exclusively to local buyers, as they are in parts of England.