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Demand for Norfolk property surges as lockdown encourages city dwellers to move

PUBLISHED: 10:22 06 July 2020 | UPDATED: 14:36 06 July 2020

Lloyd Sandy, managing director of Sowerbys, says that the Norfolk property market remains robust. Picture: Sowerbys

Lloyd Sandy, managing director of Sowerbys, says that the Norfolk property market remains robust. Picture: Sowerbys

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More buyers from big cities like London are looking to relocate to Norfolk after the Covid-19 lockdown.

In the last few months, estate agent Sowerbys says it has seen many people looking to move from the cities by selling their main home in London or the home counties in particular and relocating to Norfolk. Picture: Getty ImagesIn the last few months, estate agent Sowerbys says it has seen many people looking to move from the cities by selling their main home in London or the home counties in particular and relocating to Norfolk. Picture: Getty Images

Two of the region’s leading estate agents say that the property market in Norfolk has seen a remarkable recovery since the Covid-19 pandemic forced offices to close earlier this year.

Lloyd Sandy, managing director of Sowerbys, which has offices across Norfolk, says that there has been a great deal of enthusiasm across the county since estate agent’s offices re-opened in May.

“Since we have re-opened our offices, enthusiasm for making big lifestyle changes has become a reality for many, and we have found ourselves in an incredible market – one that we have never seen before,” he says.

“The demographic of the buyer is very much based around the middle to top end of the market, and these people are generally moving from large cities.

Sowerbys' managing director Lloyd Sandy. Picture: Robert Foyers/SowerbysSowerbys' managing director Lloyd Sandy. Picture: Robert Foyers/Sowerbys

“Throughout lockdown there was a continuous enquiry level, and this gathered real momentum throughout April and May. It looked like there were a lot of lifestyle conversations being made, whereby people were looking to move from the cities by selling their main home in London or the home counties in particular and relocating to Norfolk. Instead of this being a ‘round the dinner table conversation’ it was becoming a reality.”

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As a result, Sowerbys had a record-breaking month in June. “Comparing June 2019 to June 2020, we find ourselves over 50pc up on sales and applicants registered are 28pc up on last year.” Viewings are also up 22pc – despite the government’s restrictions that only proceedable buyers can view property, and some concerns from buyers.

“As a group we have agreed over £65 million worth of property sales in June alone, and we are experiencing record web traffic with constant potential buyers looking to move,” says Lloyd.

Since lockdown, more people are looking to make 'big lifestyle' changes and swap the city for the country. Picture: SowerbysSince lockdown, more people are looking to make 'big lifestyle' changes and swap the city for the country. Picture: Sowerbys

He believes that the figures are further proof of Norfolk’s ability to “buck the trend” when it comes to property forecasts. “Over the last 24 months there has been so much negative talk from the national media about the property market and how we will be suffering because of economic factors way above local climates,” he says.

“In 2019, we were presented with Brexit and all the challenges of the ‘what ifs’ that came with that and in addition we had the general election which again apparently meant we could be in for a tough time.”

But that year Sowerbys still sold more houses than ever before and entered 2020 with a real buzz in the market. “What this did clearly say to us as a group is that we live in a very robust county that seems to weather any national storm,” says Lloyd.

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Now the key issue facing the property market is not having enough sellers – although a good stock of newly built homes is currently helping to meet this demand.

“We have large increases in the interest levels for all developments that we are selling, and we anticipate this will only increase over the coming months,” says Lloyd. “There are a lot of general developments sites in Norfolk but the ones that are proving most successful are the ones where the developers have strong reputations for quality and are offering selective sites in village locations with homes finished to a high specification and quality standard.”

Lloyd says that while the increased activity might be a spike in demand, post lockdown, he expects this to conform to a normal trend – with a slower, reduced market in October, November and December.

“There are of course unknowns,” he says. “However history says that Norfolk and the magical coastline that we all enjoy remains a robust market that can fend off any national crisis.”

Real estate adviser Savills agrees that activity levels have been high since lockdown restrictions were relaxed, as property prices at the top end of the market remained stable in the east of England in the second quarter of 2020. Norfolk has seen no change in the last three months and an annual growth of 3.2pc.

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The number of sales agreed nationally for homes above £1million was also 48pc higher at the end of June this year when compared to the weekly average for the same period in 2019.

“In the 34 years I’ve been working in the Norfolk property market it’s one of the busiest periods I’ve known,” says Louis de Soissons, who leads the residential team at Savills’ office in Norwich,

“Activity has been buoyed by pent up demand, in part at least, but we have been surprised at the extent to which lockdown has made people reassess their housing needs and, more pertinently, act upon it.

“The experience of working from home has made people aware of the limitations of their existing homes and we have seen strong interest across a spectrum of properties – from pretty cottages with a guide price of £500,000 through to larger country houses in excess of £2m. But what everyone appears to want is more space, both inside and out.

“Seclusion has also been high on the agenda. We’ve seen a few buyers from London but also Essex and Hertfordshire borders. Interestingly, we also recently had some buyers who were previously looking in the Cotswolds. They were unable to find what they were after and realised that Norfolk represents much better value.

“However, buyers do appear to be keeping their feet on the ground when it comes to what they will pay, meaning sellers must retain realistic price expectations if this momentum is to be sustained.”

Average values slipped by 1.1pc in the prime residential markets of London in the second quarter of the year, though on average they remained unchanged across other prime UK markets, where values have been supported by the increase in demand for country living.

Nationally, eight out of ten (83pc) Savills agents reported increased demand for village homes, and 90pc greater demand for country locations. All offices reported an uptick in buyers from London – with 32pc of new applicants in the country coming from London compared to 21pc last year.


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