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22 Aug 2021

Record numbers of Londoners leave the capital: where are they moving to?

Londoners flock to home counties in search of lower house prices

High house prices and the rise of flexible working have resulted in a growing number of Londoners leaving the city for pastures new.

New data shows record numbers of Londoners are buying homes elsewhere, with Surrey, Hertfordshire and Kent the most popular locations.

Here, Which? explains why people are leaving London, and reveals the places they are most commonly buying homes.

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Londoners move away during the pandemic

New data from the estate agent Hamptons shows 61,830 Londoners bought a home outside the city in the first half of 2021, the highest number since records began in 2006.

Hamptons says the rise of flexible working and the cost of buying a home in the capital are the main factors behind the increase.

Aneisha Beveridge of Hamptons told Which?: 'Despite lockdowns easing and offices and restaurants reopening, Londoners have continued to re-evaluate where they want to live, with many bringing future-planned moves forward.

'Much of the uplift in Londoners looking outside the M25 over the last year has come from those buying their first home. The capital's loss has been the Home Counties gain.'

First-time buyers lead the London exodus

Hamptons found that more than a quarter of Londoners buying homes outside of the city in the first half of the year were first-time buyers, the highest share on record.

In total, 49,470 first-time buyers and home movers left the capital to buy a home elsewhere in the country, spending an average of £318,300 on properties.

Property investors and people buying second homes accounted for the remaining 20% of moves out of London, totalling 12,360 purchases.

How far are Londoners moving?

On average, Londoners bought properties 35 miles outside of the city, up from 31 miles before the pandemic.

First-time buyers moved the shortest distance, perhaps reflecting their need to still be able to commute into London for work.

Holiday home buyers looking for coastal retreats and investors seeking higher rental yields bought properties further away from the city.

Type of buyerDistance away from London
First-time buyer22 miles
Existing homeowners32 miles
Second-home/holiday home buyers96 miles
Buy-to-let investors109 miles

The most popular areas for London buyers

The majority of people leaving London bought a property in southern England, with the South East and East of England most common.

Just 8% of Londoners bought properties in other regions, with investors making up the lion's share of this figure.

Tandridge leads the way

Hamptons analysed which local authorities had the highest proportion of buyers from London in the first half of the year.

Londoners accounted for more than half of buyers in eight local authorities, with Tandridge in Surrey topping the list.

Tandridge is home to popular towns such as Caterham and Oxted (pictured). 67% of buyers in Tandridge in the first half of the year came from London.

Oxted, Surrey

The 10 most popular places for London buyers

Hertfordshire featured heavily on the list of most popular places for London movers, with four representatives in the top 10.

These include Three Rivers (home to Rickmansworth and Chorleywood) and Hertsmere (which includes Borehamwood and Bushey).

Local authorityShare of buyers from LondonThe average price paid by Londoners
Tandridge, Surrey67%£468,940
Three Rivers, Hertfordshire64%£670,830
Hertsmere, Hertfordshire63%£936,920
Dartford, Kent59%£254,060
Reigate and Banstead, Surrey53%£469,380
Thurrock, Essex51%£291,640
Welwyn Hatfield, Hertfordshire50%£482,924

Are homebuyers moving to the coast?

There's been a lot of talk about homebuyers moving to coastal areas over the last year, and there are signs that some of the UK's most popular coastal towns may be seeing more buyers coming from London.

Hamptons says that while traditional hotspots near the M25 have remained popular with buyers, some areas further afield have crept up the list this year.

The proportion of Londoners moving to coastal local authorities such as Great Yarmouth, Thanet and Canterbury have all increased.

Thanet is home to Margate, while the Canterbury local authority includes the seaside town of Whitstable (pictured).

In each area, Londoners have purchased more than 20% of homes this year, suggesting some buyers are looking to leave the city for the coast.

Whitstable, Kent

'My career was the only thing tying me to London'

Which? reader Katie and her partner moved from North London to Norwich last year, buoyed by the prospect of lower house prices and the remote working.

She told us: 'We wanted to get on to the property ladder, but buying our first home in London wasn't a realistic prospect, with properties in our area selling for anything up to £700,000.

'Moving to Norwich allowed us to buy a home and cut our outgoings significantly - our mortgage is around half the amount we were spending on rent in London.'

After several of Katie's friends made moves of their own, she found her career was the only thing keeping her in the capital, but the pandemic gave her the opportunity to reassess her options.

She says: 'It became clear that there wouldn't be an expectation for us to be in the office in London five days a week in the future. We were fortunate to have employers that embraced flexible working, and we quickly found that we could work effectively remotely.