Flora Watkins

Why there’s never been a worse time to move to the country

  • From Spectator Life

It began with a sourdough starter. Then we dabbled with home delivery cocktails. This time round, I watched The Dig and bought a Fair Isle tank top and a blouse with a big collar to wear for Zoom calls. Then, when my husband’s company announced they’d be hiring remotely, we embraced the biggest lockdown cliché of them all: moving to the country.

Mentally, we checked out of London and started rubbing our hands in expectation of what we could get in exchange for our terraced house in Zone 2. Outdoor space, a couple more bedrooms – the trade-off many Londoners have come to expect in exchange for enduring the years of a ruinous mortgage and the Northern Line during rush hour.

Alas, the reality was as disappointing as the must-watch of Lockdown 1.0, Normal People. Rural homes, it became apparent, are as scarce and as coveted as loo paper was this time last year. And the supply chain is unlikely to improve. Country-dwellers, who’ve generally had a far better lockdown than city types, are staying put. And the surge of Londoners who’ve decided — after months of being denied their usual diversions — to leave, has reached tsunami-like proportions.

There are now 16 buyers chasing every newly-listed house, according to research for national estate agent Jackson-Stops. The South-East is the most saturated market, with 20 buyers for every house. That’s an increase of 23 per cent on six months ago. ‘A year ago we were seeing 3.5 proceedable buyers for every house – now it’s seven,’ says one of the big national agents.

Meanwhile, the property portal Zoopla reports there are 6 per cent fewer homes available compared with this time last year.

‘Unless you’re a cash buyer, you might as well b**er off,’ as one property finder covering the South-West tells me.

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