Small towns take over as hottest property spots as cities snubbed

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The busiest house and flat markets of 2020 have been revealed, with rural areas leading the way as buyers change their priorities during the lockdown. Huntingdon, in Cambridgeshire, had the highest rate of property purchases last year, followed by Pontefract, in West Yorkshire, and Great Yarmouth, in Norfolk. The figures are based on the number of house sales per 10,000 people in the town’s population.

In Huntingdon, which has a population of 26,000, there were more than 400 house sales per 10,000, while Pontefract had 328 and Great Yarmouth 320.

The Cambridgeshire market town, known for being the birthplace of Oliver Cromwell, is popular with London commuters and is cheaper than other towns near Cambridge.

The average price of a three-bedroom semi in Huntingdon is £310,532 over the past year, according to Rightmove.

Pontefract might also have benefited from bargain-seeking house buyers.

Selling prices in the town, which has a population of just over 31,000, were down three per cent year-on-year in 2020, according to Rightmove.

This was at a time when house prices had risen by an average of £17,000 across the UK. Preston is the only city in the top 10 of the high purchase rate list, and has a relatively small metropolitan population of fewer than 99,800. 

Other than Doncaster, each of the locations in the top 10 has fewer than 100,000 inhabitants.

Brokers Haysto compiled the list of property hotspots after ­analysing government data. They also ­identified the spots in England and Wales last year that had the fewest property purchases relative to the size of the population.

Portsmouth had the fewest, with 51 per 10,000 people.

The port city has a population of nearly a quarter of a million, but there were only 1,267 properties sold over the course of the year.

Wirral (56), Luton (72), Watford (74) and Birmingham (75) completed the bottom five locations with the lowest number of property purchases per 10,000 people.

These figures also reflect the trend towards smaller settlements among buyers.

All of the 20 towns and cities with the lowest property purchase rates had a population of at least 100,000, while five were home to more than a quarter of a million.

Analysts said buyers have moved further away from cities in the past year.

Many have worked from home for long periods and felt that they may not return to a daily commute after the pandemic.

Other factors, such as more space and gardens, which are harder to find and less affordable in urban areas, also figured on buyers’ wish lists. Many are keen on fewer crowds and a quieter life, it was said.

Paul Coss, co-founder of Haysto, said: “The impact of Covid-19 changed the property market in 2020 nationwide.

“I believe when we come out of lockdown and the economy starts to bounce back, this could be a good year to move or get on the property ladder.”





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