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‘Escape to the Country’: London’s Mass Exodus

Working from home has revolutionised most of our lives – the freedom of delaying that alarm clock, reduced commuting costs and less surveillance from your superiors. But this has had an unintended consequence on the housing market, which may just be permanent too…

People are leaving London in droves. Why? Well, as working from home becomes the new ‘normal’, London’s notoriously expensive housing market seems to be losing its appeal to the average Londoner and its many millions of migrants

London’s attraction has always been its location. However, in an age of never ending lockdowns, how much does location count? Especially if you can’t enjoy the best bits of London (the people, the entertainment) and are left with the worst of it – including cramped space and expensive rents.

The extent of the exodus

This is why in the last year we saw Londoners buy 73,950 homes outside of the capital and, for the first time in more than a decade move beyond 40 miles away on average from the capital. On top of that, the last time Londoners bought nearly as many homes outside of London was 2007. Therefore, this really is a significant trend.

It seems like being home 24/7 has made people rethink their standards for living. An increased desire for green space and an office has driven people to start looking at options which are better value for money. The sales market in some areas of London are doing quite well though. In part thanks to the stamp duty holiday.

However, the real question that we’re all asking is will this last? And the answer is complicated because nobody really knows. Many people prefer the benefits of working from home, but do big businesses? The financial services sector employs around 15% of London’s workforce and produces more than a fifth of London’s economic output. Just from this, we can see how influential the sector will be in the future of working from home. Initially, there were murmurings of how work from home is here to stay, but the tune quickly changed. In September, JP Morgan’s CEO was urging bankers to return to work ASAP as productivity has been suffering since the practice started.

If any other of the big banks follow suit, it may inspire some of the crowd who left to return, and promptly. 

Only time will tell.

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