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Rural markets boom amongst homebuyers in the wake of Covid-19 - with many happy to pay a premium for the countryside lifestyle

21st October 2020

  • The rural district of Ryedale, North Yorkshire, is England’s most in demand countryside market, with sales agreed up 63% in the past six months, followed by the Herefordshire District near Birmingham, which is up 46%

  • It’s not just the north where buyers have a renewed taste for the ‘good life’; the rural district of Sevenoaks in Kent, and the Cotswold District have seen sales agreed up 44%, and 37% over the same period

  • While moving out of the city is often associated with a cost saving, in half of the top ten sales agreed hotspots, buyers are paying a premium to live in a more rural location compared to their nearest city


Covid-19 has led Brits to undertake a once-in-a-lifetime re-assessment of their housing needs, with rural locations assuming a new level of popularity amongst home buyers, reports Zoopla, the UK’s most comprehensive property destination.


Rural demand converts into sales agreed 


Demand for the ‘good life’ has rapidly converted into sales since England’s property market reopened. The rural district of Ryedale, North Yorkshire, saw the highest boost in sales agreed, up 63% in the past six months, compared to the same period in 2019. The rural district of Herefordshire, one of England’s most rural areas and well known for fruit and cider production, came in second, with an uplift of 46%; while the rural district of Sevenoaks, which extends across Kent, otherwise known as the ‘Garden of England’, came in third, with sales agreed up 44%. 


The growth in flexible working, coupled with a search for more space, has led to some city dwellers looking for a change in scenery. And it’s not just Londoners who are exiting the city limits; indeed, the uptick in demand for rural property extends to other regions in England. 


Buyers paying a premium for rural idyll


While moving out of the city is often associated with better value for money, an abundance of fresh air and a slower pace of life, in half of the top ten sales agreed hotspots, buyers are actually paying a premium to live in a more rural location.


Long a countryside favourite and popular for weekend getaways, the Cotswold District, which encompasses the picturesque market towns of Chipping Campden and Chipping Norton, commands higher prices than its nearest city, Bristol. A homemover purchasing a three-bed, semi-detached house in this district is likely to pay a premium of £61,500, or 20% more than the price of an equivalent three-bed, semi-detached house in its nearest city. 


It’s a similar story in the West Midlands, and the rural district of the Malvern Hills, which is the scenic area between Herefordshire and Worcestershire, and encompasses approximately half of the Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Here a three-bed, semi-detached home is £30,000 more expensive than a house in nearby Birmingham, equivalent to 14% more than the average Birmingham house price. A three-bed, semi-detached house in the High Peak District, comprising several quaint villages and the National Park, is on average, £54,000 more expensive than in nearby Sheffield, which amounts to 31% more than the average Sheffield house price. 


Pockets of savings in the South 


For those looking to move to the countryside and make cost savings, there are pockets of the country that offer the best of both worlds. The average price of a three bed, semi-detached house in the rural district of Sevenoaks, Kent, is £428,000. With the same type of property in London costing an average £538,000, this amounts to a huge saving of £110,000, underlining why the area is a favourite amongst commuters. 


And for those who want a complete change of scenery and slower pace of life, the price of a three bed, semi-detached house in the Isle of Wight comes in at £232,000, £60,000 cheaper than an equivalent property in its closest city Portsmouth. 


Significant savings of £19,000 can only also be made in the district of Horsham in West Sussex, well known for its range of market towns and villages, and excellent transport links to the coast and London. A three bed semi-detached in this district comes with a price tag of £405,000, while in Brighton the price for the same type of property is £424,000.


Gráinne Gilmore, Head of Research at Zoopla comments: “Our data indicates continued elevated levels of demand, especially among homemovers. Some of these households have taken the chance during lockdown to reassess where, and how, they want to live. Most demand for housing within cities remains within those cities, but we are seeing a cohort of buyers choosing to buy in more rural locations, which can offer a different style of living, especially for those who have increased levels of flexibility around working from home.”


The rural districts with the highest increase in SSTC April - September 2020



Rural district*

% change in SSTC

Average Price of a 3-bed semi-detached house

Nearest city

Average Price of a 3-bed semi-detached house

Price differential(£)

Price differential(%)


























High Peak
















North Devon
















Malvern Hills








Isle Of Wight
















*Largely rural local authority according to Local Authority Rural-Urban Classification (2011)



- Ends -

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