People who quit the capital during Covid in favour of a quieter life in the country are searching for houses in London at the highest rate since the pandemic began.
Brits are looking to make a return to the city after offices, pubs and restaurants reopened, according to online estate agent Rightmove.
In stark contrast, searches for the southwestern coastal counties of Devon and Cornwall – two of the pandemic’s property hotspots – fell by almost a fifth this year compared with 2021.
There has been a 9 per cent increase in searches for homes in London, which has held onto its position as the nation’s most popular search location.
Because of the Covid-induced popularity of rural homes, there were only 3 per cent more searches for houses in London than in Cornwall in 2021. That gap has widened to 36 per cent this year, the highest since the pandemic began.
After London, Cornwall and Devon, the next most searched-for places on Rightmove in 2022 were Bristol, Glasgow and Manchester.
Edinburgh, Sheffield, York and Cambridge made up the rest of the top ten.
Tim Bannister, Rightmove’s head of data, said: “People searching for their next home have well and truly returned to the capital.”
“We started to see the tide turning towards the end of last year, and throughout 2022 a lot of our trends in the market have started to head back towards where they were in 2019.”
Having been confined to their houses for weeks on end, many people sought to move out of towns and cities and into the countryside in the first year of the pandemic.
Estate agents dubbed it the “race for space”, with buyers demanding bigger gardens and an extra room which could serve as an office as they started to embrace working from home.
The trend fuelled house prices in rural areas and led to London, for years the main driver of the nation’s property market, underperforming every other region.
Agents across the country are gearing up for what is expected to be a busier than usual start to the New Year, given that some would-be movers delayed their plans after the mortgage chaos brought on by the mini-budget and aggressive interest rate rises.
Bannister said: “We’ve seen a group of people using the past few months to assess their options and consider what they can afford, and they could be spurred on next year should fixed-rate mortgages drop as anticipated.”