The growing number of buyers quitting city life for rural escape post-lockdown

Properties outside of Scotland’s city centres are seeing a huge rise in demand as people look to move to get more room and outdoor space after months cooped up in lockdown.

Melissa Kaplan and 5.yr old daughter Olivia Andrew. Melissa and her family are moving out of town to East Neuk of Fife.

Sellers, even in rural areas, are finding that they have dozens of offers when they set a closing date, while prices are rocketing far above Home Report valuations.

Property experts say that buyers’ priorities have changed as a result of lockdown – and the changing face of the workplace during and after the pandemic, as fewer people are expected to work from an office full-time.

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As a result, buyers are looking less at city centre properties within walking distance of most offices and instead, are considering suburbs or more rural locations where they can afford a bigger home.

Robert Carroll, managing director of estate agency Mov8 Real Estate, which has offices in the Lothians and Glasgow, said that families were cashing in on cheaper properties outside of city centres.

He said: “The solicitors in our legal department have experienced a huge surge in the number of buyers looking to submit offers on houses with outdoor space and houses further from the city centre.

“Many of our buying clients who are looking to buy larger properties with outdoor space are families with young children. These buyers have been cooped up in flats or smaller houses during lockdown, trying to look after and entertain small children whilst both working from their dining table.

“For many people, a long walk or cycle with the whole family will have to take the place of soft play or play dates with friends and their children for the foreseeable future. Being out of the city and having more space to work and play at home certainly ticks the boxes of people who are frustrated with the lack of activities currently available in their local urban centres.”

He added: “Our estate agency department is reporting record levels of competition amongst buyers of houses with outdoor space, with properties receiving dozens of offers at closing dates and selling prices vastly in excess of the Home Report valuation.

Pent up demand for property

Claire Flynn, spokeswoman for the ESPC, which has member solicitors across Edinburgh, the Lothians, Fife and the Borders, said: “Our agents have reported that lockdown restrictions have changed priorities for many Scottish property buyers, with people seeking extra space for a home office or prioritising a garden more than they may have done previously. For some buyers this means looking for a home further out of the city, on the coast or in the countryside. During July and August, searches for property in East Lothian and the Borders on espc.com have risen 60 per cent and 66 per cent year-on-year respectively.

“However, we’re also still seeing strong demand for properties in Edinburgh, including in areas close to the centre. Searches for properties in the capital have risen 64 per cent year-on-year. Generally there is very strong interest in buying and selling homes in Scotland currently, due to pent up demand as a result of lockdown restrictions.”

A recent report from the surveyor industry body RICS Scotland found that demand for properties with gardens, as well as those located close to green space such as a park, were seeing a huge rise in demand.

RICS fellow Gordon Macdonald of Allied Surveyors Scotland in Aberdeen, said: “August saw a surge in housing market activity, including sales and new home report requests. Indeed, we saw more activity than normal during the summer holiday period overall.

“This is most likely a result of a backlog in demand from months of inactivity, people taking less holidays, and some people considering lifestyle changes, including seeking more green space.

“The increase in activity in rural areas certainly suggests that some people are seeking to move away from crowds and are seeking more green and open space; something that has likely been prompted by the lockdown period.”

He added: “I would expect this trend to continue and to be a feature of the market for some time to come.”

It got to the point where I thought ‘What are we really doing here?’

University worker Melissa Kaplan from Edinburgh is moving her family – including partner Ewan and daughters Olivia, four, and Charlotte, five – to the East Neuk of Fife after finding that her new priority of a more spacious home was unaffordable in the city centre.

The family had missed out on a number of new properties in Edinburgh before lockdown through the offers over system.

Kaplan, who teaches at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Just after the lockdown restrictions lifted, we had a week away, staying in the East Neuk, and I realised ‘I just have to live here’. We currently live in the city centre in Edinburgh, near Inverleith Park, but we previously lived in Haymarket, which is my favourite part of the city. I could walk to work at the university, drop the girls at school and hop on a tram or a train. Of course, now, none of those things seems as important – I’m not going to be going to the gym any more, I won’t be using the trams. It got to the point where I thought ‘What are we really doing here?’

“My partner is currently working from home, and even if he does go back to the office, it is not likely to be every day. We looked at three properties and missed out on one, then secured that one. The competition was still rough as there seems to be an exodus from the cities. We did still get a lot more for our money than in Edinburgh.

“We are really looking forward to the move, although it is definitely going to be very different. My older daughter had started school and was settled and my other daughter has been at the same nursery since she was one – so that will be one of the hardest things, but they’re both quite outgoing and resilient.”