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London house prices contribute to highest net migration since records began

Which commuter towns and cities are ex-Londoners moving to?

London house prices contribute to highest net migration since records began

The number of people moving out of London has soared by 55% in the past five years, with house prices likely to be a key factor.

Overall, the only age group that had more people moving into London than leaving were people in their 20s, research from estate agent Knight Frank has found.

Which? looks at how many people are migrating from London, and compares house prices in the towns and cities they’re moving to.


Record numbers moving out of London

In the year to June 2017, just over 336,000 people left London to live elsewhere in the UK, according to a Knight Frank analysis of ONS data.

The figure represents an increase of 15% on the previous year.

Net migration, which means the number of people coming in minus the number leaving, came to 106,607 moving out of the capital. This is 14% higher than the year before, and 55% higher than five years ago.

In fact, migration from London to other parts of the UK is at its highest level since records began in 2011.

People in their 30s are leaving in the greatest numbers. The only age group that has a positive net migration is people in their 20s, reflecting the fact that many young people move to London to study or start their careers.

Most popular places to move to from London

Scotland attracted the highest number of ex-Londoners, according to the research, although a local authority-level breakdown for Scotland was unavailable.

Within England, Birmingham was the most popular place to move to, with Brighton, Bristol and Manchester also making it into the top 10.

This suggests people are choosing smaller, but still vibrant cities, with a comparatively affordable cost of living.

The London commuter belt, including Dartford, Epping Forest and Elmbridge, was also in demand.

You can see the top 10 destinations in England below.

Rank Area Number of Londoners moving there in 2017
1 Birmingham 7,604
2 Brighton and Hove 6,138
3 City of Bristol 5,927
4 Dartford 5,090
5 Epping Forest 4,806
6 Medway 4,798
7 Manchester 4,712
8 Elmbridge 4,383
9 Leicester 4,196
10 Canterbury 4,179

Source: Knight Frank

Are London house prices too high?

London house prices, which until recently were on a seemingly unstoppable upwards trajectory, play a key role in many people’s decisions to leave the capital.

For those currently renting in the capital, house prices may be stopping them from buying. The average house price in Greater London was £484,584, as of April 2018, compared to the average UK price of £226,906, according to the ONS.

Even flats in the comparatively affordable south London borough of Croydon cost, on average, £273,526, which means you’d need a deposit of at least £27,000 and an income of £55,000 to be considered for a 90% mortgage.

By comparison, the average flat price of £129,958 in Birmingham may make moving to the Midlands an appealing option.

For those who already owned homes in the capital, house-price growth may have enabled them to upgrade to a more comfortable property outside the city.

Take, for example, a family who bought in the popular first-time buyer area of Waltham Forest in June 2013. Between then and June 2018, the average house price rose by a whopping 72%, from £251,846 to £434,534.

That equity growth is likely to enable them to buy a much larger home elsewhere in the UK.

The average price of a detached home in Birmingham is £247,065 – just a tick over the £204,954 average you’d pay for a flat in Waltham Forest today.

Cheaper alternatives to London

Homes in the commuter belt surrounding south-east London have crept up in price, as have those in major cities such as Bristol, but compared to London, they might still seem like a bargain.

Here’s how house prices for detached homes and flats compare for London and the four most popular alternative destinations of Brighton, Bristol, Thurrock and Birmingham.

Area Average price for all properties Average price for a detached home Average price for a flat
London £484,584 £895,301 £425,045
Brighton and Hove £360,166 £655,457 £296,588
City of Bristol £274,145 £504,966 £222,839
Thurrock £269,910 £518,525 £179,817
Birmingham £177,828 £334,928 £129,958

Source: All data from ONS UK House price index, average prices for April 2018

Are London prices cooling down?

London house prices have been on an upward trend in recent years, but the tide may have started to turn.

March 2018 was the first month in five years when the average house price was lower than the year prior, according to ONS data.

By April, growth was back up to 1% year-on-year – higher than the last month, but well below the 20% increase recorded in August 2014.

That said, house-price activity depends heavily on the local area. Some local authorities have bucked the trend, with prices continuing to grow strongly, while others have seen values start to slow or decrease.

If you want to buy a home in London, it’s important to research the local area to judge whether prices are on the up or starting to cool.

Help for buyers in London

While you might balk at the high price tag of London properties, there is help out there for first-time buyers. Here are some options that could help give you a leg up:

  • London Help to Buy – buyers who’ve saved a 5% deposit can take out a 40% equity loan from the government to buy a new-build home, provided it costs less than £600,000. You can then get a mortgage for just 55% of the property value, instead of 95%. Find out more in our guide to London Help to Buy.
  • Shared ownership – this scheme allows you to buy a 25%-75% share of a home and pay rent on the remainder. You can increase your share over time, which is known as staircasing. Our guide to shared ownership explains how it works.
  • Affordable housing – offering homes below market value, affordable housing schemes operate in a range of areas, but the scope is fairly limited at this stage and eligibility criteria is strict. Find out more in our guide to affordable housing.
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