U.K. Home Shift Under Way With Prices Surging in Quieter Areas

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House prices in the U.K.’s least densely populated areas gained almost twice as much as those in more packed areas over the past year as the Covid-19 pandemic fueled a desire for more space.

Analysis by the Resolution Foundation found evidence of urban flight, as workers opted to move from big cities such as London, Manchester and Birmingham in favor of more rural locations. Prices in the least dense 10th of local authorities rose by over 10% since February 2020, compared with 6% for the most populous, the think tank said.

Britain’s property market has experienced a tumultuous period during Covid. After being forced to shutter entirely during the nation’s first lockdown last spring, it rebounded through the rest of the year, supported by a temporary tax incentive and pent-up demand. After an uneven start to 2021, Nationwide Building Society said prices surged at the strongest pace since 2004 in April.

Questions remain over whether the outperformance of quieter areas will last. Flats have also fared less well as people sought larger properties, access to gardens and less crowding after repeated periods of being advised to stay at home. One-in-five children in low-income households spent the U.K.’s initial lockdown in an overcrowded home, it said.

“It’s too early to say whether this move away from cities will be a long-term trend,” said Cara Pacitti, an economist at Resolution. “But for many families, escaping to the country is no more than a pipe dream, and the overcrowding that they have faced during the pandemic must be addressed.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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