The story of our research into prime property – and of HNWI attitudes to what it is and where to find it – is really one of access. The traditional hotspots in London still hold their appeal. But we’re seeing more interest in homes that can cater to a modern, remote-working lifestyle without the hassle of city living – interest stoked by improved transport links, civic investments, emerging business clusters and changing perceptions of what ‘prime’ means. Why be in the city so long as you can still access it?
True, for many HNWIs, the ivy-strewn country pile has always been high on the wish-list. But changes to the accessibility of a host of services is making even the most stubborn city-dweller look at a rural idyll as more than just a weekend bolt-hole.
Rural areas likely to be reached by infrastructure projects – such as the mooted Crossrail extension to Ebbsfleet and Kent, HS2, or a raft of smart motorway upgrades – could see heightened interest in rural property. Hotspots are likely to be in the Chilterns (above HS2) and deeper into Oxfordshire.
When we asked property buyers which rural regions appealed right now, 10% picked South Bucks and 21% Oxford. But don’t discount the North where fast transport links look set to open up value-for-money rural areas. When we asked about future hotspots, 43% picked areas north of the Wash.
Equally, while rural broadband remains a sore point for many country dwellers, investment and technological developments (such as the 5G roll-out, due to start in 2020) should make access much better in the near future.
The Government’s Rural Development Programme for England committed an extra £45 million this year to the £30 million existing Rural Broadband Infrastructure Scheme (RBIS) to deliver superfast broadband in poorly-served areas.
Farms and gardens
One driver is sales of agricultural land. The trend in farming is diversification, and freeing up parcels of land for commercial and residential building while retaining mixed-use estates is a logical financial step – especially as the country continues to face a housing shortage. Planning remains a key consideration. But for limited developments, schemes such as permission in principle (PIP) are helping developers secure new starts.
As more regions upgrade their infrastructure, this could open up new developments outside existing metropolitan areas. That means squaring the circle that the HNWIs we surveyed laid out: access to amenities and fast transport, but also spacious residences and large outdoor spaces.
But it’s not just luxury barn conversions. A major development to watch will be the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford growth corridor. New rail links and an Oxford-Cambridge Expressway will support 1 million new homes by 2050 in a string of garden towns and villages – offering new-build standards of design and technology with tailor-made rural living – all in areas that our research shows are desirable locations for the better-off.
The garden towns push in England is part of the government’s ambition to build 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s; 23 locally-led garden communities are already receiving funding support. These developments might well be the ideal option for those looking to put some green back in their lives, allied to surroundings and homes built to 21st century standards of efficiency... and all without sacrificing access to amenities, the capital and charming character.