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Wealthy buyers ditch prime central London for the Home Counties

Home counties English country house housebuying central London
Home counties English country house housebuying central London

Britain’s richest homebuyers are ditching their traditional London stomping grounds and are decamping to the Home Counties en masse, new research shows.

The capital’s glitziest postcodes have suddenly lost favour with England and Wales’ super-prime buyers, who are increasingly shopping for more rural homes in the likes of Surrey, Buckinghamshire and Hampshire.

So far this year, more than a third (34pc) of the top 1,000 most expensive home purchases in the country were made outside London, according to exclusive research by Search Acumen, a prop tech company.

This was a 45pc jump since 2021, when the share was less than a quarter.

A desire for access to green space in the wake of the coronavirus lockdowns has been key. Back in 2019, before the pandemic, the share of big ticket sales happening outside the capital was just 15pc.

St George’s Hill in Elmbridge, Surrey, was the number one location for the highest value home sales outside the capital in the year to date.

It was followed by Highclere Park in Newbury, Hampshire; North Fambridge in Chelmsford, Essex; and Ridgemont Road in Ascot, Berkshire.

Surrey accounted for the largest share of big ticket buyers after London, with 81 of the most expensive purchases in the country in the year to date.

Buckinghamshire was the second most popular county, with 32 sales, up from 20 a year earlier. In Hertfordshire and Hampshire, the number of top end sales more than tripled, to 28 and 26 respectively.

By contrast, the number of big ticket sales in Kensington and Chelsea – the longstanding favourite amongst the wealthiest buyers – fell by 45pc year-on-year to 154.

Similarly, in Westminster, sales halved to 92, while Camden saw a 36pc drop to 53 – little more than half the number recorded in Surrey.

The trend reflects the fact that international buyers – who are more likely to spend in prime central London than in the suburbs – largely disappeared during the pandemic, Search Acumen said.

In the first six months of this year, international buyers accounted for just 21pc of home sales in Greater London, according to Hampton estate agents, down from a peak of 35pc in 2018.

Overseas buyers are now returning to prime central London – accounting for 48pc of transactions this year, up from 35pc in 2021 – but it seems a lasting legacy of the pandemic that the top end of the English property market has become more dominated by British spenders.

Buying outside the capital also means that the top 0.1pc of purchasers are now spending drastically less.

The average price paid across the top 1,000 sales so far this year was £3.4 million – roughly half the £6.3 million spend in 2021.

Andy Somerville, of Search Acumen, said: “The days of London being the default location of choice for high-value house purchases are increasingly behind us as big-spending homebuyers look to invest their time and money in locations beyond the capital.”

Dawn Carritt, of Jackson-Stops estate agents, said: “Key to this rebalance has been the void of international buyers during lockdown.”

The shift to remote working drove fierce demand for country property during the pandemic period, but the frenetic pace of the market is now cooling, Ms Carritt said.

“Offers that are being made now feel much more grounded in reality than they did this time last year. Buyers do not want to enter the bidding wars we sometimes saw six months ago.”