New research suggests that tenants are joining home buyers in a trend towards leaving big cities and heading for more spacious homes in smaller towns and the suburbs.
Between May and August 2020, 34% of tenants that moved home upsized, adding at least one extra bedroom. This compares to 25% during the first three months of the year. Specifically, a quarter of moves post-lockdown were from a flat to a compared to 16% during the pre-pandemic period in the first three months of 2020.
Tenants living in the South East were most likely to trade up, with 47% of those moving post-lockdown adding at least one bedroom in their move and spending an additional £266 pcm on average. Upsizing tenants across the UK added an average of 1.4 bedrooms between May and August, paying an additional 23% in rent; in cash terms this equates to a national average of £149 per month more.
The desire to upsize seems to have been driven mainly by the size of property in which a tenant had been living at the start of lockdown. Around 88% of tenants who moved out of a studio apartment swapped it for a larger home, while 72% traded up from a one-bed property and 25% moved from a two-bed home to a larger place.
Some 63% of renters in London who upsized chose to leave the capital entirely, typically moving into a cheaper location outside of London and therefore spending less. This could account for some of the recent increase in demand throughout Essex with rental properties close to commuter links being snapped up at record rents.
As a result, London was the only region where the cost to a tenant of upsizing their home actually cost them less as they moved to les expensive areas. The average London-based tenant looking for more space spent £86 pcm less, despite gaining at least one extra bedroom.
Tenants' priorities have been changing, and upsizers have swapped smaller city centre flats for three-bed semis on the fringes of town, and the quality of life benefits that go along with this. There has always been a premium on proximity to green spaces, but for many tenants the saving on regular commuting costs balances this out. While the change in appetite for suburban living has mostly been dominated by tenants in their mid-thirties onwards, younger tenants too have been looking for additional space. For these groups, this typically means moving from a room in a shared house into a studio apartment, or from a studio into a one-bed home with separate living and sleeping spaces.
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