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Revealed: the most popular places to buy a home in 2020

Bruton in Somerset sees soaring demand as buyers escape to the country

Revealed: the most popular places to buy a home in 2020

Rural and coastal areas saw the greatest rise in demand from buyers in 2020, as an increasing number of people looked to swap the city for the country.

New data from Rightmove shows that the idyllic town of Bruton in Somerset saw the biggest increase in searches from buyers last year, while Welwyn in Hertfordshire saw the biggest rise in sales agreed.

Here, we take a look at the most in-demand areas to buy a property and explain how what buyers are looking for in an area has changed since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Biggest increases in buyer searches

Following the lockdown last spring, the property market came back to life with a bang following the government’s announcement of a temporary stamp duty holiday in July.

Rightmove says this tax break saw interest from home buyers skyrocket, with visits to its website passing eight million for the first time on the day the cut was announced.

The below five areas saw the biggest increase in searches from prospective buyers in 2020.

1. Bruton (Somerset) – 72% increase

The Somerset town of Bruton saw the biggest increase in interest from buyers, with searches for properties rising by 72% in 2020.

The town made national news in July when former Chancellor George Osborne bought a five-bedroom listed property there for £1.6m.

Bruton has been described as ‘the new Notting Hill’ by British Vogue and has house prices to match.

The average price in the South Somerset local authority is around £245,000, but four-bedroom family homes in Bruton are listed for around £700,000 to £1.1m.

Image of the town of Bruton, Somerset
Bruton, Somerset

2. Pitlochry (Perthshire) – 50% increase

The Victorian town of Pitlochry was second in the list – with a 50% rise in searches in 2020.

Pitlochry is located around 25 miles north of Perth. It’s a popular area for hillwalking holidays and has an impressive 13th-century castle as its focal point.

Average house prices in the Perth and Kinross area are around £200,000, but a family home in Pitlochry is likely to cost you in excess of £400,000.

Image of high street in Pitlochry, Perthshire
Pitlochry, Perthshire

3. Aylesford (Kent) – 48% increase

Aylesford in Kent saw a 48% increase in traffic in 2020, having been named as one of the best countryside areas to move to in a survey by CompareMyMove.

The village is set on the River Medway around four miles from Maidstone and is known for its community atmosphere and excellent restaurants.

Average house prices in Tonbridge and Malling are around £380,000, but a family home in Aylesford will cost you in excess of £500,000.

Image of homes near the river in Aylesford, Kent
Aylesford, Kent

4. Salcombe (Devon) – 48% increase

Salcombe is one of the most popular coastal towns in Devon, with a picture-postcard harbour, unblemished beaches and award-winning restaurants.

A four-bedroom home in the town is likely to cost you around £700,000, but expect to pay seven figures for a property with a sea view.

Image of sea and beach in Salcombe, Devon
Salcombe, Devon

5.Lightwater (Surrey) – 46% increase

The village of Lightwater in Surrey has long been one of the most popular countryside locations for buyers.

A 46% growth in search numbers in 2020 reflects buyers looking to move to smaller communities but remain within commuting distance of London.

Image of junction in Lightwater, Surrey
Lightwater, Surrey

A four-bedroom property in the village is likely to cost you in the region of £600,000.

Top 10 areas with biggest increase in searches

Rank Town
1 Bruton
2 Pitlochry
3 Aylesford
4 Salcombe
5 Lightwater
6 Dartmouth
7 Henfield
8 Sturminster Newton
9 Hayling Island
10 Henley-on-Thames

Biggest increases in sales agreed

Rightmove also tracked the areas with the biggest increases in sales agreed in 2020 and found that seven of the 10 areas with the biggest rises had populations of less than 10,000.

Welwyn in Hertfordshire topped the charts with a 75% increase in sales, followed by Woodbridge in Suffolk (69%) and Llanelli in Wales (65%)

Stockbridge in Hampshire (60%) and Malmesbury in Wiltshire (54%) also made the top five.

Image of home in Welwyn, Hertfordshire
Welwyn, Hertfordshire

Top 10 biggest increases in sales agreed

Rank Town
1 Welwyn
2 Woodbridge
3 Llanelli
4 Stockbridge
5 Malmesbury
6 Frinton-on-Sea
7 Hayling Island
8 Buntingford
9 Ware
10 Hassocks

Biggest house price rises

When it came to house price rises, suburban areas in the North West of England saw the biggest growth.

Eccles in Greater Manchester saw the biggest annual rise in asking prices – with its 16% growth far outstripping the national average of 6%.

Wavertree in Merseyside (12%), Chadderton and Middleton in Greater Manchester (11%) and Sowerby in West Yorkshire (11%) all made the top five.

The five top towns for asking-price increases all had prices below the national average.

Image of building in Eccles, Greater Manchester
Eccles, Greater Manchester

Top 10 biggest increases in house prices

Rank Town
1 Eccles
2 Wavertree
3 Chadderton
4 Middleton
5 Sowerby Bridge
6 Halifax
7 Worsley
8 Morecambe
9 Wallasey
10 Royton

How buyer priorities have changed since COVID-19

The COVID-19 outbreak resulted in people spending more time at home, and this has been reflected in how priorities have changed.

Homebuyers are increasingly looking to areas where they can enjoy a higher quality of life, albeit with the ability to still commute to the office when necessary.

The stamp duty cut has provided the biggest boost for those purchasing more expensive properties – the biggest savings of £15,000 are available on homes costing £500,000.

Glynis Frew of Hunters Estate Agents says: ‘2020 gave people time to reset and reprioritise, focusing on lifestyle. From a better work-life balance to the need for outside space, we have a renewed sense of what matters to us.

‘For some, this means finally making that dream rural or coastal move, safe in the knowledge that they can work remotely for the majority of the time. For those in certain digital-led industries, the possibilities are almost limitless – a good wi-fi connection is all they need.’

The Which? Money Podcast

Finding the best place to live: top tips

If you’re thinking of moving home in 2021, it’s important to do your research to find the right area for you.

As a starting point, here are some things to look out for when comparing areas.

1. Transport connections and traffic

Transport can make a big difference to your quality of life. If you don’t drive, you’ll need to find out how frequent (and crowded) the local trains and buses are.

This is particularly important in a commuter town. The further away you live from a city, the cheaper house prices might be, but this saving could be eaten up by higher fares and longer, more frustrating commutes.

Popular areas can also fall victim to traffic congestion, especially during peak times, so visit an area at different times of the day to see whether this might be an issue.

2. Schools and catchment areas

The areas with the best schools will usually have higher house prices to match.

If you have (or are planning to have) children, you should research the catchment areas for the best local schools on your local authority’s website.

A word of warning – school boundaries can change from one year to the next, so double-check if you have a specific school in mind.

3. Shops and facilities

You might be thinking of escaping the city and moving to a more rural area, but does it fit your lifestyle?

For example, check for local restaurants if you enjoy eating out regularly, or gyms if you like to exercise.

Also check the local services – could you easily get to the bank or a doctor’s surgery?

4. Neighbours and community

Before making an offer on a property, ensure you’re armed with all the facts.

If you can, spend time chatting to potential future neighbours. They might be able to tell you about any previous issues with the property and give you an insight into the local community.

You could also check with the council to see if there have been any complaints made on that street.

5. Environment and air quality

Being downwind of sewage works, or having hordes of tourists passing your front window during summer months can turn a perfect location into a nightmare, so talk to locals about whether there’s anything you should be aware of before making an offer.

Air pollution can also have an effect on your health, so check whether the property is on or near a busy road with lots of traffic. You can find air pollution forecasts on the government’s UK Air website.

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