Is central London bouncing back? Buyer enquiries surge as office return and 95% mortgages renew interest in city-centre flats

·2-min read
<p>Highbury, in north London, has seen buyer interest leap by 66 per cent since the start of the year</p> (Daniel Lynch)

Highbury, in north London, has seen buyer interest leap by 66 per cent since the start of the year

(Daniel Lynch)

Lockdown has reached its final phase and the pandemic-inspired surge of buyers moving out of central London in search of affordable houses may be easing off.

New research from Rightmove reveals a rebound of interest in flats across the UK. Demand is up by a third (33 per cent) in London since January.

The prospect of returning to the office and getting on with normal life, hopes of catching the last days of the Stamp Duty holiday, and the Government’s new 95 per cent mortgage guarantee scheme have all stimulated interest in smaller properties which had been out of favour since last year’s first lockdown.

Central London is also starting to see a bounce back – possibly because after a year of strong price growth in the suburbs and beyond, coupled with stagnant or falling prices in central locations, is starting to make a Zone 1 or 2 home seem like a relative bargain.

£600,000: a recently-reduced two-bedroom flat for sale in a Victorian house in Highbury New Park (Chestertons)
£600,000: a recently-reduced two-bedroom flat for sale in a Victorian house in Highbury New Park (Chestertons)

As a result, the number of buyers enquiring about homes in inner London is up by 10 per cent compared to the start of the year. The most popular location is Highbury, in north London, found Rightmove. Buyer interest in the home of Arsenal has leaped 66 per cent.

“We have certainly been very busy,” said Gemma Foster, senior property consultant at David Andrew estate agents in Highbury. “March and April have been very good months for us, after quite a slow winter.”

Foster said that buyers have been interested in flats throughout the pandemic – with one key proviso. “They definitely still want outside space, that has not changed,” she said. “People have always got on their minds the possibility of another lockdown in the future.

Rightmove housing expert Tim Bannister said today’s good news indicated the green shoots of recovery in central London’s property market.

“A number of agents … [are] … telling me they’ve seen a marked uptick in demand from first-time buyers, and they’re managing to sell city centre flats more quickly than in earlier months of the year,” he said.

“People starting to venture into their local high streets and once again experiencing the buzz of their city centres, along with greater mortgage availability for first-time buyers, means city centres are staging a much-needed comeback in the market.”

According to the latest UK House Price Index average sale prices grew 4.6 per cent in the year to February.

But the performance of individual boroughs varied wildly.

Outlying suburban boroughs like Merton (up 13.3 per cent), and Sutton (up 11.7 per cent), enjoyed the strongest price growth. More central boroughs have seen double figure price drops, notably the City (down 15.5 per cent), and Hammersmith and Fulham (down 10.5 per cent).

Read More

UK house prices: stamp duty holiday and low interest rates fuel ‘mini boom’ with homes now £24,000 more than pre-pandemic

London house prices: gap between capital and the North narrows as mini-boom sweeps the country

Should first-time buyers and second steppers try to buy before the stamp duty holiday deadline?

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting