It has been said a thousand times before but it bears repeating: what people want in a home is vastly different to how it was in 2019. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, just under 40% of Britons have turned to working from home since the first lockdown came into place.
Due to factors such as the furlough scheme, redundancies as well as other more unfortunate circumstances, the pandemic also saw a four year high of people leaving London, most likely in order to secure a better financial position with their property; London property prices and mortgage payments can be difficult enough at the best of times but when under financial uncertainty, this challenge becomes even more so.
Fundamentally, it appears that those that have left London and other busier cities have gone to regions where they can enjoy the benefits of a changed scenery while still having access to their previous cities should they need it. Brentwood in Essex, for example, can offer direct train routes to Liverpool Street in less than forty minutes. An average price for a property in the Essex town will reach somewhere between £500,000 and £600,000, a sizable saving compared to the £700,000 to £800,000 that you would need to spend for a London property in areas such as Lambeth, Southwark or parts of the South West.
For so many, the primary reason for living so close to cities like London, Manchester, Birmingham etc. was the necessity to be in the office by 9 o’clock. With a growing majority now working from home, however, do people still need to be paying London prices for their property when their office is now just down the hall?
The answer is “probably no”. But then this begs the question: where is the best area for working from home? We want to look at a few popular answers to see which areas are ideal for working from home and which might pose some issues.
The general rule of thumb is that property and land is much cheaper the further north you go. Idyllic hills and beautiful views of the sprawling countryside can conjure images of a quaint and quiet village lifestyle. A laid back attitude that is so far removed from the hustle of London or Birmingham may even have you thinking of an early retirement.
The average property in the Peak District fetches as little as £300,000. Before you start packing though, you should be aware of the caveats that come with it.
Access to London from the village of Grindleford in Derbyshire can take a little under 3 hours with the return journey more precarious with the final return train leaving St Pancras just after 9 o’clock. Although working from home means this is not a journey you would necessarily have to take frequently, the possibility of it being an occurrence remains and one that many may wish to avoid.
Elsewhere, another form of connectivity may come to be an issue. With your home doubling as your office, a decent internet connection becomes not just a luxury but an essential. Properties in the Peak District typically handle 14 mbps which may be fine for working but if you are regularly taking video calls, streaming, gaming, what have you, you might begin to grow frustrated all too quickly. Internet speed is not something that is often factored in when people are considering their new homes but is now more important than ever. The Peak District may be a beautiful place to live but doubling as a workstation may still be a distant fantasy, so it's worth checking with Ofcom if your dream locations meet your needs.
It may come as a surprise but Cornwall was the most searched-for location for potential buyers looking to leave London last year.
Much like the Peak District, Cornwall offers a significantly lower average property price than somewhere like London for example; RightMove states that the overall average price is between £300,000 and £350,000. Coupled with sea-side living, clean air and a calmer countryside lifestyle, it is a departure from the more densely populated areas of the country like London and the West Midlands.
Due to how far south-west Cornwall is, though, you may run into a few obstacles if you were to relocate there. Broadband speed and general connectivity in Cornwall - although improving - is still a way behind that of more cosmopolitan areas.
Essex is fast becoming one of the most preferred destinations for people looking to move out of the capital. Last year, Londoners were moving to the East at a rate of 96 people per day and there are very good reasons as to why we could expect that number to keep growing.
What Essex can offer that the Peak District and Cornwall struggle to is the idea that you are still part of the culture we had 18 months ago but just slightly further away. An abundance of shopping and entertainment opportunities all come together for a very London-like experience but in regards to working there, Superfast broadband across the county and excellent transport links to London Liverpool Street and beyond. Essex is also served by Stanstead Airport, where trips to Edinburgh are as fast as an hour.
Despite offering so much to its residents, Essex remains a more affordable place to live compared to London. The range of average house prices in Essex towns is between £200,000 in Purfleet and £650,000 in Brentwood. It might come as no surprise in the near future when the average price increases substantially, in no small part due to the significant increase in potential demand.
For now, though, towns and boroughs in Essex such as Chelmsford, Brentwood, Southend-On-Sea and Rayleigh are all excellent choices for relocating in order to more comfortably work from home.
Peterborough and Grantham
While Essex is perfect for if you want easy access to London, those that want to be closer to cities further up the country could find luck in the East Midlands. Both Peterborough and Grantham offer an average property price in the vicinity of £200,000.
One of the stops on the line from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh, Peterborough has been experiencing a rapid development and regeneration in large part as a result of the 17% population increase forecasted in 2019. The geography of the city has made it such a desirable location as train lines to London take only 40 minutes, Leeds in 1 hour and 30 minutes as well as direct train lines to Newcastle and Lincoln.
The regeneration’s first major step took place back in 2013 when the city became one of the UK’s first ever “gigabit” cities, offering broadband speeds of 1GB. As of 2021, nearly every home in Peterborough has a full-fibre network.
If you would rather choose somewhere slightly further afield but still close enough to the amenities, the market town of Grantham has risen to the top of many commuter’s lists. Grantham gives residents the chance to experience countryside living while also having the opportunity of a more built up environment like Peterborough just a short journey away.
When factoring in a potential new location, you need to consider every aspect of what you need but also what you might want too. For working from home, though, the most important thing you will need to think about is connectivity. Can you connect to where you need to be? Maybe just as important, though, can you connect to what you need?
Our MoveSmart tool offers you a wide range of information such as average price, energy efficiency as well as broadband capabilities in order for you to determine where the best place for you to be is.