I went into the office last week to pick up a few things. Honestly, London was a bit creepy – it seemed like the only people on the street were the homeless and construction workers. I was happy to get back into the car and head back to Oxford. That said, I think that’s all about to change, albeit slowly I imagine, and soon I suspect London will be back to the thriving hub of business and culture we all know and appreciate.
On the property side of things, we’ve seen loads being written in the press about the surge in property portal searches for out-of-city properties – a theme we’ve been talking about for some time. One of several things C-19 has shown us is that many people – a much bigger many than previously assumed (or allowed) – can work successfully from home and that’s got people thinking.
Thematically it makes sense. Think of how nice it would be to have more space to move, to breath, a room with a view – some of the simplicities of life that can get lost with city living. Let alone how much better it would be to have an affordable property that many cities can no longer offer.
That said, it’s hardly a new phenomenon for city dwellers to bring their property profits to the countryside and smaller towns – these days anywhere within a 1.5 hour commute to the city seems fair game. So, Sandbanks or Shoreditch-by-the-Sea aside, perhaps there is intent behind the romance. I believe remote working will transform demand outside of the cities as we move forward post Covid.
But it brings us back to the same problem though – the housing supply. For years, locals in the most sought-after rural locations have found it difficult to get on the housing ladder, as city professionals and those who’ve made a killing on urban property move out or buy second homes. There’s not enough homes in Peckham and there’s not enough homes in Polperro. Out-of-city life has a great allure. City life equally – diversity, society, culture, amenities. There are plenty of people who either want to or have to stay in the cities.
In the meantime, I think any V-Out of the current situation is fantasy. There is still an enormous amount of uncertainty on how life as we know it will unfold and a lot of smart money is mystified by the high valuations in the liquid equity markets. For us, bricks and mortar and building affordable housing is still a safe investment strategy. Demand will always be there…it’s the supply problem we all need to focus on right now.