As an estate agency we are witnessing something like an exodus from urban to rural locations, especially in the South West where the clamour for homes is incredible.
Demand had been on hold before the General Election, back at the height of Brexit uncertainties, and was just beginning to flare up when the world changed in March last year, slowing the market.
But now that we are learning to live with the pandemic and now that a different sort of lifestyle is being prioritised, the residential property business in rural England is boiling over.
Those things which weren’t necessarily fashionable – countryside, larger homes, good size gardens, the space to work from home– are now red hot. Most properties with those attributes instantly have many more viewings than they might have expected previously and often go to sealed bids.
Frome and Bruton, subjects of much media hype (most of it incongruous with these relatively quiet though stylish and vibrant towns), command the most interest.
But we are also witnessing demand spread west and south. Our offices in Wells and Bruton in Somerset and Shaftesbury in Dorset see selling prices exceed expectations time after time.
We have been able to cope with the excessive buyer demand. Staff were brought back from furlough immediately when the first lockdown finished.
We took on more office staff and property professionals. And we took on more viewing staff, people with real knowledge of their local areas – what to do, where to shop, local schools, local services, even where to buy good coffee.
For those moving to a rural area for the first time, our viewing staff are often indispensable.
We also now work with digital, design and content experts, having launched a dedicated sister website, Lodestone Life, supplying information about moving and settling here, its lifestyle features a source of relocation inspiration and practical advice.
Dealing with the limited supply of property is inevitably trickier. It’s not possible to pinpoint what came first: unlimited buyers or limited sellers.
But that demand is currently so frighteningly high explains the reluctance of some sellers to enter the market. We do lots of valuations, but many never go on sale. Anyone can sell their property at a great price, but not all can then find their next home.
Cathy Morris-Adams, Managing Partner, Lodestone Property