Research article

The county set

As demand for high-value homes in the country remains high, we examine the activity and popularity of counties across the UK in the market over £1 million

One of the most pronounced trends in the prime housing market over the period since it reopened after the first lockdown has been the well-documented increased demand for country living. And while almost all counties have seen an increase in activity in the market over £1 million, some have performed more strongly than others.

Our analysis examines where the most sales of £1 million homes have been agreed from the beginning of June 2020 to the end of March 2021, and the extent to which they have increased compared to the same period in 2019 (see chart, below).

Hampshire and Kent lead the Home Counties

Of the counties closest to London with the most properties worth more than £1 million, Hampshire and Kent have seen the biggest increase in activity. Across the two counties, more than 2,000 £1 million+ sales were agreed in the period to the end of March – an increase of 117% on pre-pandemic levels.

Cornwall tops the lifestyle-relocation market

One of the key features of the prime market in this period has been the extent to which people have reassessed their work-life balance. That has supported lifestyle-relocation markets, including traditional second-home hotspots. Of all the counties that had more than 300 £1 million+ sales agreed in the period, Cornwall has seen the biggest jump, with numbers rising by 179%.

Trevarno, Cornwall. Guide: £1,750,000

Trevarno, Cornwall. Guide: £1,750,000

Loosening ties to London

The pandemic has caused people to review their need to be in close proximity to a major employment market – most notably London. As a result, many have widened their area of search well beyond the traditional 60-minute commute time. That has increased the pool of buyers in well-established prime areas, epitomised by the Cotswolds. This has been a major contributor to the 152% increase in agreed sales of £1 million+ properties in Gloucestershire.

Casting a wider net

The reassessment of priorities has favoured the South West of England, with the number of £1 million+ sales across Dorset, Devon and Somerset more than doubling in the short term. These are counties whose prime markets have matured significantly over the past 20 years. But one of the striking features of our analysis is how the search for a rural idyll has also resulted in significant increases in activity in markets with less-established prime markets, such as Worcestershire and Leicestershire in the Midlands.

Powerhouses of the North

In the North of England, Cheshire and North Yorkshire stand out in terms of the depth of their prime markets. Between them they saw just shy of 650 agreed sales of £1 million+ homes, with much bigger increases in those sales than more urban locations. However, the economies of Manchester and Leeds have been the key to the wealth generation that supports demand in these markets. This is much in the same way that the wealth generated in Edinburgh and Glasgow has fed a wider Scottish market where the growth in activity has been constrained by travel restrictions.

A shift in focus

In the next phase of the market’s evolution we expect something of a shift in the focus of demand back towards prime urban areas, not only to the likes of established markets such as Bath, Edinburgh and York, but also the towns set to challenge them in the future.

For more information, please contact a Savills office in your area or arrange a market appraisal with one of our local experts.

Read the articles within Report: Prime UK Residential – spring/summer 2021 below

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