Was there anybody who didn’t move to the countryside during the pandemic? It seems like the world did, with much-publicised property gold rushes in the Cotswolds and Cornwall. However, the biggest price rises in the past year have not been in Oxfordshire, the West Country or other posh London outposts: the new countryside hotspot is Wales. There’s not a Soho Farmhouse or Diddly Squat in sight.
For year-on-year rural price growth, Welsh local authorities make up 12 of the top 20 locations in England and Wales, according to research by Hamptons estate agency. Rossendale in Lancashire, just south of Burnley, tops the chart with 18 per cent annual growth, but the rest of the list is dominated by Welsh property dragons: Carmarthenshire (the bit between Swansea and Pembrokeshire, up 17 per cent), followed by Blaenau Gwent (next to Monmouthshire, up 16 per cent), Rhondda Cynon Taf (near Cardiff, up 15 per cent), Pembrokeshire (15 per cent), Wrexham and Gwynedd (both 14 per cent).
The Welsh hot streak is driven by affordability, according to Aneisha Beveridge, the head of residential research at Hamptons estate agency — prices in much of England have risen so fast that Wales is playing catch-up. The average price in Carmarthenshire, for instance, is £150,150, versus £236,990 in Cornwall and £421,560 in South Oxfordshire. The average price in Wales has risen only 35 per cent since 2008, versus 77 per cent in London. The pandemic drive for green space has driven Welsh demand, according to Beveridge, but not among second-home buyers: they are down 5 per cent year-on-year in the countryside (Wales brought in a 4 per cent surcharge on holiday homes in December 2020). It’s owner-occupiers moving from more expensive locations, and buying above £500,000 at record levels, who are fuelling the upper end of the Welsh market.
The pandemic has spurred a return of the natives, says Carol Peett, a buying agent with West Wales Property Finders http://www.westwalespropertyfinders.co.uk. “Ninety per cent of my buyers this year were born and bred here and are moving back from London or big cities. It used to be older people retiring. Now younger families are reassessing their lives. Having been locked up in a London townhouse with three screaming children, they’ve all decided they wanted to buy a smallholding; it’s so much cheaper here than in Gloucestershire or Hampshire. Some are doctors burnt out by the pandemic. Others are starting small businesses and working for themselves: producing honey, gin, boat building, upholstery. A lot of them picture a rural idyll of fluffy sheep, but I do think after one cold muddy winter here, they might be hotfooting it back into town.”
The Sunday Times – 5th December 2021 https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/why-house-prices-have-risen-faster-in-wales-than-anywhere-else-in-the-uk-n6zdbssmf
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