Many people dream of owning a spacious, wisteria-clad home in the countryside. The benefits of fresh country air, beautiful rural views and peace and quiet can be appealing for those who have spent years working hard in a noisy, dirty city.
If you are one of these people, the good news is that now could be a great time to make your dream a reality.
The UK Rural Market is Growing Steadily
According to residential experts Knight Frank, the rural UK housing market is stable and growing.
While prices are unlikely to rise in the same way as London prime property, the value of homes in the countryside has risen 2.5% in the last 12 months, showing that there is demand for rooms with a view.
Although the higher end of the countryside market is still absorbing the effect of last winter’s Stamp Duty rises, estate agents have found that asking prices have begun to take into account the increased costs of purchasing, which is great news for buyers.
Bargains are Available
Another factor that makes buying a country home more attractive is the fact that the average price of homes in many of the UK’s regions has yet to return to their 2008 peak. This means that those in the market for a move could find a bargain.
According to figures published by the Nationwide, average prices for homes in Yorkshire and the Humber are still 6% below peak, while in the North West the figure is 6.1%.
Those looking for the biggest bargains could find just the thing in Northern Ireland, where asking prices are still 49.6% below their 2008 average.
In fact, the only areas where the housing market has surpassed its 2008 peak are in urban London (up 31.6%) and the South East (up 7.2%). So there are lots of opportunities to find a country bargain.
More People Commute to Enjoy Country Living
Many people are already aware of the benefits of country living, including good schools, larger gardens and calmer pace of life.
In a 2014 survey by recruitment agents Radstand, 1 in 10 of those working in London commute in from the countryside. This figure has doubled in the last 10 years, as people search for a higher quality of life for their families.
Rural Locations Have Many Advantages
Those who have been keeping an eye on the market in 2015 will have noticed that the biggest price rises this year have been in some of the UK’s regional cities, such as Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and Bath.
Here demand has been driven by the attraction of local communities and short commutes.
While country residents may have to travel for work or entertainment, many villages offer residents a vibrant community and good local amenities. This means that children can attend village schools and grow up in a stable, safe environment.
In fact it is now possible to avoid lengthy commutes and still enjoy country living. Country Life magazine recently pinpointed 50 beautiful, well-connected villages with community spirit and great amenities within an hour’s commute of London’s main rail stations.
The must-have addresses include Dunsfold in Surrey, Lindfield in West Sussex, Penshurst in Kent, Terling in Essex, Nayland in Suffolk, Brampton in Cambridgeshire, Much Hadham in Hertfordshire, Long Crendon in Buckinghamshire, Stratton Audley in Oxfordshire, Yattendon in Berkshire and Kingsclere in Hampshire.
National Parks and AONBs Come at a Premium
Of course for every rule there is an exception, and the countryside is no different. Buyers who hope to relocate within one of the UK’s 13 National Parks or Areas of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB) will have to pay a premium for the privilege.
In Knight Frank’s Prime Country Review 2015, the most expensive of these regions is the New Forest in Hampshire, where buyers have to pay 93% more than a comparable home in the county outside the National Park.
The premium for a National Park home is lower in the South West; with Exmoor homes costing an extra 18% and a 30% increase for homes in Dartmoor. The most reasonable National Park in which to buy is Snowdonia in Wales, where homes attract a 2% premium compared to average prices in Gwynedd.
While living in an AONB or a National Park attracts a higher price tag, in many cases prices still compare favourably with house prices nationally. The average price of a home in the lovely Yorkshire Dales is £249,699, while a home in the majestic Lake District will set you back on average £269,993.
Only the New Forest, with an average asking price of £451,241 has a market that rivals London.
Looking Beyond England
The rural housing market in Scotland and Wales has seen some uncertainty in recent months. North of the border, the £1 million+ market has slowed after the introduction of the Land and Building Transaction Tax (LBTT) in April.
The LBTT has increased the tax payable on residential home purchases, in a similar way to the changes to Stamp Duty in England and Wales.
While experts predict the market will adjust to the higher levels of taxation, Nationwide showed that Scottish house prices didn’t grow at all in Q2 of 2015 (although they have risen 5.4% in the last 12 months).
Prices in Wales have also yet to reach the peak levels of 2008, although there has been steady growth over the quarter (1.8%) and annually (9.3%). Those on a budget may want to find their rural hideaway here, with average house prices only £145,812.
Even country homes in the beautiful Brecon Beacons are available at an average £197,403, and those who want to live near the splendours of the Pembrokeshire coast can do so for an average £211,087.
There is no doubt about it, if you long for a life in the country now is a good time to buy. Bargains are available, mortgage rates are at historic lows, and transport to urban centres is improving. Are you tempted to make the move?