If you thought the English property market was frenzied, wait until you hear about Wales. Prices have risen by 12 per cent in a year — the highest of any UK region. Alexandra Goss on the dragon’s pull.
Jo and Adam Sheridan wake each morning and pinch themselves as they look out at the mist rising from the two vast valleys that surround them. Red kites glide overhead, curious sheep look over from the neighbouring field and hares bound through the long grass. Their 14-acre smallholding is surrounded by artists, from a sculptor to a photographer and even a stained-glass window maker. “Everyone who comes here says how relaxing and inspiring it is,” Jo says. “It’s a dream, really.”
The couple, who run their own osteopathy practice, moved from Rugby, in Warwickshire, to their new home in Ceredigion, about ten miles from Lampeter, at the start of May. With their children grown up, they wanted to move to a smallholding in west Wales where they could work part-time and run a holiday let but also live sustainably and fulfil their artistic ambitions. Jo, 57, is a weaver and Adam, 56, a potter, and they are setting up a community of artists who run workshops.
The Sheridans aren’t the only ones who have fallen for the green, green grass of Wales lately. They may be bitter rivals when it comes to the rugby, but demand from English buyers for Wales’s verdant countryside, dramatic sandy beaches, rugged mountains and creative communities — not to mention its lower house prices compared with many places over the border — took off after the Severn Bridge toll was scrapped in December 2018. And, since the pandemic began, the Welsh dragon has been unstoppable.
Property prices in Wales rose by 12 per cent in the year to June, the highest growth of any region in the UK, according to Halifax, while the analyst Propcast says 63 per cent of homes for sale in the country were under offer or sold subject to contract last month, up from 28 per cent in June 2020. Research by Hamptons estate agency reveals that, so far this year, 36 per cent of buyers have come from outside Wales, the highest proportion since it started recording the data in 2009.
“The Welsh property market has changed beyond all recognition since Covid. There are hordes of people wishing to escape the city, where they had been locked up in small homes with a tiny garden at best,” says Carol Peett, the managing director of West Wales Property Finders http://www.westwalespropertyfinders.co.uk. “Many have decided that the fresh air, open spaces and beaches of Wales are where they wish to be, particularly now that working from home has become the norm.”
Such is the demand for areas such as Ceredigion that buyers are putting in offers of tens of thousands of pounds over the asking price for properties they have never seen in the flesh; according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) the average house price in the county rose by 26.7 per cent in the year to April, although this is flattered by the closure of the housing market during the first national lockdown. Homes routinely sell off-market, sometimes within hours, and gazumping is commonplace.
The Sheridans know this only too well. After the housing market reopened last May, they drove over and back ten times for property viewings — and every time they lost out. They had an offer accepted on one property, but the week they were due to exchange, the vendor demanded another £95,000 so they withdrew. After a year of searching, they finally bought their farmstead for just under £700,000. “Our budget kept having to go up and up,” Jo says. “The first house we offered on was £460,000.”
Wales’s lower population density is a big draw post-pandemic. According to the ONS Wales has, on average, 153 people per sq km, compared with 434 in England, although Cardiff and Swansea are much more densely populated. “Many buyers are coming from high-density cities such as London and Bristol,” says Paul Willey, partner at Hunters mid-Wales estate agency, based in Llandrindod Wells, Powys. “Most of the towns and hamlets in this area have 5,000 to 6,000 people at most and it’s this way of life that buyers want.”……………..
If you are looking for a property in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire or Ceredigion, give West Wales Property Finders a call on 01834 862816.