The New Normal: COVID-19’s influence on where tenants want to live

The pandemic has resulted in many people changing their mindsets for a wide variety of reasons. Whether it is due to safety, lifestyle change, or other factors brought on by COVID-19, tenants across the UK have been moving houses to suit their needs regarding the ‘new normal.’

Results from a recent Deposit Protection Service (The DPS) survey back this up as it has found that young tenants are now moving closer to towns whilst older people are choosing to live in the countryside. Of the 1,300 respondents who declared that they moved during the six-month lead-up to January 2021, there was an increase from 30% to 39% in people aged 60-75 living in rural areas, whilst 45% of 18-35-year-olds living in towns grew to 50%.

Conversely, the 60-75 group living in towns saw a decrease from 45% to 38% as well as in city centres from 7% to 3%. The 18-35 group living in rural areas saw a decrease from 15% to 13% living in rural areas, with 35% citing the pandemic as the reason for their move.

The DPS managing director Matt Trevett said: “There seems to be a much stronger demand among younger tenants for properties in towns rather than cities and rural locations, which we believe was partly provoked by more widespread working-from-home policies.”

“On top of this, older respondents seem to be increasingly interested in rural locations, perhaps as a result of lockdown restrictions causing greater disruption to urban life, including the temporary or permanent closure of many services and venues.”

Working from home tends to bring benefits for younger people. For example, BBC Radio 4 found that working from home can increase productivity. A scientific experiment conducted by Nicholas Bloom, Professor of Economics at Stanford University, saw Chinese travel agent CTrip’s employees increase their output by 13% due to their home being quieter than the office – leading to them being less distracted as a result and quit rates going on to be halved. With there potentially being more positives than negatives, it is no wonder that young people are moving closer to town. Their work-life balance should be healthier going forth through the pandemic.

‘Being closer to family’ is one factor that dictates where older people are moving, says Emma Ward of Cornwall estate agents Goundrys. This is evident for those aged 35-60, as they most frequently stated “more outdoor space” and “family-related factors” as their decision to move. But, according to The DPS, “work” and “financial reasons” were the most frequently cited factors for 60-75-year-olds, dispelling the element of wanting to be closer to family. Emma Ward, though, expects this boom in moving to the countryside, as well as towns, not to last forever and expects a gradual return in demand for city-dwelling as the pandemic nears its conclusion.

As a property investor or developer, it is interesting to note the changes the pandemic has brought about. By following the trends closely, your next property project may vary based on the recent changes in an area’s demographic. Despite these trends being introduced due to the pandemic, proportions of these groups may want to make these lifestyle changes permanent going forward. Working from home may be here to stay for many businesses, and this new working dynamic could be well-suited to the 18-35-year-olds. Whilst the countryside may charm 60-75-year-olds into staying longer than expected.

If you’d like to read more on how COVID-19 has influenced our property market, click here to see our article on how the vaccination program is affecting the UK housing market.

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