Pandemic Boosts Rural Property Markets


The global pandemic hasn’t quite been enough to drive wealthy house hunters out of the property market. But it has changed what they're looking for: big houses—preferably in the countryside.

Around the world, the spread of COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdowns have made especially desirable access to space inside and out, real estate agencies say, while a new culture of working from home has also made leaving the inner city for good more doable than ever.

While the desire to escape to the countryside may be widespread, the wealthiest homebuyers have the option (and resources) to actually act on it.

The desire to put down roots in the countryside is more common in Europe, where a survey of wealthy investors by UBS this week found more than half of well-to-do Europeans in Britain, Germany, France, and Italy now wish to move away from cities to less populated areas. A third of rich Americans said something similar.

In the U.K. and France, this reverse-urbanization pandemic shift has been confirmed by a battery of surveys. Savills found that four in 10 prospective buyers in the U.K. now find a village location more attractive than they had pre-COVID, with the proportion rising to 54% for those with school-aged children.

The potential for a "rural renaissance" comes as country houses look increasingly attractive compared to the houses and flats in cities and towns, said Frances Clacy, an analyst at Savills.

“Well-connected village locations, ideal for those who can split their working week between home and office, are likely to be in particular demand," she added.

That trend was also reported around Paris, where a survey by luxury estate agents Daniel Féau and Belles Demeures de France found that of buyers who had changed their criteria since the pandemic began, the largest shift was toward properties with more outdoor areas, followed by a shift in location and size.

It's not just London and Paris: Agents report in another study in June that about a third of global markets reported increased interest in "upsizing"—particularly around high-priced cities such as Sydney, Rome, and Monaco.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they agreed demand for green spaces from urban buyers would grow, while 61% said that they believe demand for properties in rural areas would also rise.

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