Londoners Eye a Return to City Center as Rental Viewings Soar

Londoners are heading back to the city.

After a year of shunning the capital amid lockdowns and coronavirus, many renters are now looking to return to urban life as restrictions ease, according to data from estate agent Hamptons International. Viewings for central London properties soared 46% in April compared with the same month two years earlier as residents rushed to take advantage of rock bottom prices.

It was a far different story only as recently as January, when viewings for London suburbs were still surging and renters had little interest in the center.

“There is a general sense that central London is on the verge of opening up again,” said David Fell, a senior analyst at Hamptons International. “We have seen more tenants looking in central locations and for smaller homes.”

Londoners Eye a Return to City Center as Rental Viewings Soar

During the pandemic, rental markets in cities across the world have suffered as residents lost jobs or escaped to more rural areas during lockdowns. Because renters can switch areas more easily than home owners, they’ve become something of a bellwether to see how new lifestyle trends have emerged -- and how quickly they unwind.

Property website Zoopla reported a 7% increase in rental demand for central London since early April compared to the previous six weeks, with some of the U.K.’s other main urban centers such as Leeds and Manchester also seeing an up-tick. Landlords shouldn’t expect rapid price recoveries though, according to Zoopla head of research Grainne Gilmore.

“It will be a slow build back to pre-pandemic levels,” she said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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