Cash-rich buyers exiting the capital as Covid takes hold are boosting the Norfolk housing market.

Eastern Daily Press: Tom Goodley, director, Strutt & Parker. Pic: Strutt & Parker.Tom Goodley, director, Strutt & Parker. Pic: Strutt & Parker. (Image: Archant)

Agents are reporting buyers looking to swap urban life for a safer rural idyll are snapping up houses for millions. And it’s not just the traditional buyer looking to retire to Norfolk for a quieter life or those wanting a second, holiday home. Instead there’s a growing trend of buyers flocking to Norfolk who are young professionals and with families wanting to permanently move to the county. They are working from home because of Covid and only need to commute into the office once every few weeks.

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Better transport links between Norfolk and London as well as technology, the appeal of open spaces and a sparse population has made the county a top choice with Londoners.

One Norwich agent selling high end homes said buyers were attracted by the pace of life, as well as the county’s relative safety and tranquility.

Eastern Daily Press: People are choosing to leave hectic London behind, buying up houses in Norfolk. Pic: Press AssociationPeople are choosing to leave hectic London behind, buying up houses in Norfolk. Pic: Press Association (Image: Archant)

And then there’s the value for money – with people able to double or even treble the size of their home and have outside space for the same price as their city bolthole.

The trend is fuelling a house price rise in Norfolk, say agents.

But it also means a backlog of conveyancing and survey work as teams in the county see a rise in demand and pressure to get transactions through.

It comes as Norfolk was recently named the top county in the UK for its sale of million pound plus homes – in recent years the most tricky end of the market.

Eastern Daily Press: This unconverted barn literally in the middle of the Norfolk countryside came up for sale recently. Pic: SavillsThis unconverted barn literally in the middle of the Norfolk countryside came up for sale recently. Pic: Savills (Image: Archant)

But demand over the past few years for more manageable, ‘lock up and leave’ style apartment living in a city or town as opposed to in the country is in reverse because of coronavirus.

Now, people’s focus is much more on being in the home rather than out of it, with a desire for gardens offering private, Covid-safe spaces.

The amount of homes sold recently shows a dramatic increase across Norfolk in the four weeks to mid-August – traditionally a quiet time in school holidays.

Land Registry data shows North Norfolk and Broadland enjoyed the biggest rise compared to the same period a year ago, 85pc and 83pc respectively. That equates to 461 homes sold in North Norfolk compared to 249 last year between mid July and mid August, and 379 sold in Broadland compared to 207 in the same period last year.

Eastern Daily Press: Jan Hytch, Arnolds Keys. Pic: Arnolds KeysJan Hytch, Arnolds Keys. Pic: Arnolds Keys (Image: Archant)

Tom Goodley, director, Strutt & Parker, Norwich, said: “We’ve been selling houses from outside the county for years, 70pc of our buyers are from outside Norfolk, but we are definitely seeing increased activity.

“I’m getting four or five people a week phoning me specifically looking for properties for sale for £2m or more, wanting to move from London mow rather than in the next three years so Covid has accelerated the process. And they are buying with cash.

“Solicitors and surveyors are up to their eyeballs, there is a backlog. Buyers are young people who’ve started and sold businesses, not just the traditional couples retiring and a lot of their work is fluid in that they only need to go into the office once every three weeks. Leases may be up on their offices and they may not be renewing but working from home.

“As for house prices; they do go up and down in Norfolk but are on a gentle roll. For value for money, Norfolk is top.

Eastern Daily Press: Isabelle is moving to Norfolk from London with partner Ross and their daughter. Pic: suppliedIsabelle is moving to Norfolk from London with partner Ross and their daughter. Pic: supplied (Image: Archant)

“We are geographically big, sparsely populated with peace, privacy and seclusion – buyers are telling me they can go into town on a Saturday in Norfolk and not have to join a queue of Chelsea tractors and Bentleys, you can get around and get on with life.”

Jan Hytch, chairwoman of the NDAEA, Norwich & District Association of Estate Agents, and partner at Arnolds Keys, said: “There are many who are happy to swap the daily one hour or more commute in London from the suburbs for a weekly two hour commute from Norfolk, in exchange for a bigger and better home with more space for family life and for home working, as well as a better quality of life all round. Obviously our county’s relatively low level of Covid infection is a big part of the attraction as well.

“Although some are buying holiday cottages with overseas travel likely to be difficult for a while, the majority are looking to buy their principal home here. This demand is keeping the Norfolk property market buoyant. It’s probably too soon to predict what will happen to prices, given all of the uncertainty around Covid and indeed Brexit, but it is likely that the market in Norfolk will outperform other parts of the country over the next 12 months.”

‘A comfortable upgrade on our life in London’

Isabelle and Ross, both in their thirties, are in the process of buying a house for less than £700,000 in the Constitution Hill area of Norwich, leaving behind the capital where they currently live with their three-year-old daughter.

Isabelle said: “We had been thinking of moving to Norwich for a while, however following lockdown, the need for outside space and proximity to friends and family became paramount.

“Moving from London to Norwich means we will have the space for our daughter to run riot as a toddler, and be in walking distance of the city centre when she is older which is a comfortable upgrade on our life in London.”