Rightmove expert says ‘now is the time’ to buy in cities as central locations bounce back

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City centres have been more unpopular during the pandemic, as Britons looked for more space, a garden and more property for their money in more rural locations. However, it seems the easing of Covid restrictions has increased the appeal of living in a city centre. On average, city centres have seen price growth remain flat at zero percent since the start of the year.

This has meant that some buyers have been able to find a “relative city bargain”.

But some cities are seeing buyer demand spike massively, especially in cities up north.

York city centre has seen buyer demand increase by 76 percent compared to January 2021, Norwich by 62 percent and Sheffield by 57 percent.

Southampton has seen a 55 percent increase in buyer demand while Leicester and Newcastle have seen increases of 53 percent and 51 percent respectively.

The cities with the least growth are Cardiff and Manchester with 11 percent and Bristol with a five percent increase in buyer demand.

The average jump in buyer demand in April 2021 compared to January 2021 is 35 percent, this is compared to a 32 percent increase in buyers looking to move to a village location.

Growth in buyer demand for urban locations is now reportedly outperforming the growth in rural areas for the first time since the pandemic began, according to the UK’s largest property site.

London is experiencing a slightly different shift with local areas further out still seeing the biggest increases in demand.

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However, overall, inner London boroughs are only slightly behind outer boroughs.

Rightmove’s Housing Expert Tim Bannister said it’s “good news” for city centres across Britain with estate agents saying they are now seeing an “uptick” in demand for city centre flats.

He added: “People starting to venture in to their local high streets and once again experiencing the buzz of their city centres, along with greater mortgage availability for first-time buyers, means city centres are staging a much-needed comeback in the market.

“Right now some buyers are able to grab a relative city bargain compared to the heady price growth outside cities, but these early signs of demand could be the start of city prices rising again, so for those home-hunters who have their sights set on a city centre flat now is the time to see what’s available.”

Cory Askew, Chestertons’ Head of Sales, said they are seeing “increasing numbers” of house hunters who are rethinking their move to rural spots.

Many buyers are looking to move to London’s outer areas instead which benefit those looking to save money on stamp duty land tax (SDLT).

He said: “Outer areas of London have been the main beneficiaries of the SDLT holiday and continue to squeeze the last drops of opportunity out of the incentive before the June 30 deadline with strong buyer demand still very evident across our London offices. Even with new supply also up 50 percent compared to the same period of 2019, prices continue to rise.

“Unprecedented demand for houses, whether they be in Knightsbridge, Kew or anywhere in-between within our London network, are without a doubt the hottest commodity, with competitive bidding pushing achieved prices to new levels.

“Creating further urgency amongst domestic buyers to find a property in London now, is the anticipated return of international buyers as travel restrictions are starting to ease.

“Our offices in the Middle & Far East, for example, confirmed that their clientele is desperate to return to London.”

The survey was conducted by Rightmove between April 1 and April 12, 2021.

There were 7,803 respondents in total, 4,633 respondents were expecting to buy a property in the next 12 months, and of those 1,066 were first-time buyers.

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