How Covid is expanding the commuter belt

Property Reporter
1st February 2021

With life still firmly under lockdown and millions working from home, a 'normal' commute to the office seems like a distant dream and becomes less likely to return as the weeks' march on. As a result, homebuyers across the UK are re-analysing their long term property requirements and expanding the commuter belt.

Charlie Rearden, of Stacks Property Search, explains: “Buyers are spending a lot of Lockdown time peering at maps, websites and train timetables, figuring out how far they can go to get more green space and more property for their money. Increasing the radius of property search, adding thirty minutes or so to a commute, pays huge dividends financially and in terms of quality of life.

“Working from home full time is unlikely to be the norm in the months and years to come, and most Lockdown searchers are realistic in their thinking, anticipating less time in the office, and more flexible working. Such an arrangement used to be the exclusive preserve of those with very senior or part-time jobs. The post-Covid world is likely to see a huge diversity of the working population who don’t have to adhere to a rigid daily commute.

“As far as long-term value is concerned, we are predicting that places offering a sustainable stretched commute will perform exceptionally well against the backdrop of the wider market over the short and medium-term. Already the growing popularity of areas that offer 1.5 or even two-hour train journey into London is having an impact on prices and supply. If you’re thinking along these lines, don’t think you’re the only one has caught on!

“While buyers tend to start their search in areas they may have previously headed to for a weekend such as East Anglia, Gloucestershire, Dorset, Devon or Somerset, canny buyers are exploring options in less glamorous-sounding regions where property prices are more accessible.

“The East Midlands is a largely untapped swathe of longer-commute gorgeousness. Don’t allow prejudices to get in the way of exploring the beautiful countryside of Rutland, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire. Surrounding the rather uninspiring town names that offer a good stretched commute are a wealth of pretty villages, smaller market towns and stunning scenery that are within reach of London via Worksop 1hr 40m; Nottingham 1hr 40m; Derby 1hr 40m, Leicester 1hr 20m, and Nuneaton 1 hr 15mins.

“Less challenging are the rural villages around Peterborough 50mins, Corby 1hr 15m, Northampton 1hr, Nuneaton 1hr 15mins, Grantham 1hr 10mins.

“Another trend we’re seeing is buyers who had previously planned to buy a small second home deciding to sell their main home and buy a large property further out that serves the purpose of primary and secondary property, adding an hour to the commute, getting way more property in a more rural place with a sense of community and with bells and whistles that meet leisure needs such as land, pony paddocks and access to glorious countryside.

“When establishing how far you’re prepared to go, be surgical in your investigations. Price of travel, journey time to the station, ease of parking, and frequency of trains are all vital elements of a comfortable new pace of life.

“Don’t be tempted to go so far that you dread the prospect of your commute. Temper the grand plans with sense-checking and a good dose of reality. Ideally, the journey will be a pleasant one, with plenty of space to use the time to your advantage, and no sharp elbows required in the car park or when you board the train.”

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