Since coronavirus hit, more space and access to nature have shot to the top of property buyers’ wish lists. Here James Lamb, head of residential sales at Savills Loughton, examines how this is affecting the West Essex property market, where areas like Epping Forest offering those qualities in abundance…
Lead image: Lower Lodge Cottage, Uplands (photo courtesy of Savills)
Although we may still be several weeks away from anything that approaches normal life there has been no such hesitancy in the local housing market. It appears that a year spent living under the constraints of the pandemic has only reinforced people’s desire to move if their current home no longer meets their needs.
The extension of the stamp duty holiday until 30 June has no doubt helped provide a short term boost – particularly in the market up to £1m – but the signs were positive even before Chancellor Rishi Sunak made his announcement.
In the Epping Forest district the number of properties sold subject to contract in the first two months of this year was up 20% on 2020 – with 572 agreed sales versus 476. Go back further and that figure was a 51% increase on the same period in 2019.
‘In the Epping Forest district the number of properties sold subject to contract in the first two months of this year was up 20% on 2020’
In Essex more widely, 8,012 sales were agreed subject to contract – a rise of 17% on 2020 and 29% on 2019, meanwhile for the East of England as a whole there were 25,461 sales, an increase of 13% on 2020 and 26% up on the previous 12 months.
Family homes with good gardens and scope to accommodate home working continue to be popular – although buyers that work in the city still want good connections into London.
The surge in demand led to prices in the Epping Forest district increasing by an average of 3.7% last year – with the average cost of a home now sitting at £558,345. Overall prices in Essex grew by 3%, with the average house price now at £361,296.
For sale: Three of the best properties around Epping Forest
Our researchers are expecting house price growth to continue this year, with a rise of 5% forecast in the East of England over the next 12 months – increasing to 17.6% over the next five years.
As we move into the spring and summer months, new sales agreed remain well above the pre-pandemic norm, while the same is true of mortgage approvals.
The rollout of the vaccine, coupled with pent up demand from those who have put moves on hold during lockdown, is likely to sustain activity over the longer term. Nationally, there are around 20% fewer homes on the market when compared to 2020 – a fact that is likely to increase demand even further.
‘In a recent Savills survey, 55% of respondents put access to a park or open space in their top two priorities, up from 42% in 2020’
Interestingly, passion and lifestyle drivers are now proving a much stronger motivation to move than more traditional reasons. In a recent Savills survey of 1,100 buyers and sellers, 55% of respondents put access to a park or open space in their top two priorities, up from 42% in 2020.
Meanwhile, after a year that has left many people really feeling the distance between themselves and loved ones, proximity to family was important for 48%, up from 39% last year. This factor alone is likely to continue to underpin the desire to relocate as we move through the year.
The lifestyle on offer in West Essex – with access to the countryside, excellent connectivity and relative value for money when compared to London – will likely continue to drive the market this year and into next, ensuring it remains a popular choice among those from the capital and local upsizers.
Read the May issue of West Essex Life magazine here