East housing market on fire as buyers flock to region’s property hotspots

A view of Southwold beach and its lighthouse

East Anglian coastal towns such as Southwold have proved a big draw for buyers during the pandemic, say estate agents Picture: - Credit: Valerie Rozier

House sales in coastal towns and rural beauty spots across East Anglia have gone through the roof as buyers battle to get deals through ahead of a stamp duty holiday which ends on June 30.

But regional housing experts predict the boom will comfortably outlive pandemic tax breaks introduced to stimulate the market.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak decided he needed to boost the housing market in July last year as he sought an economic bounce out of the pandemic.

The original cut-off off was the end of March but it was later extended to June. It means buyer don’t have to pay tax on the first £500,000. After that, the stamp duty holiday will remain in place on the first £250k, with 5% duty payable on the next £675k, 10% on the next £575k and 12% after that. Another tax rise will be added on October 1.

Hotspots include the Burnhams, Brancaster, Wells and Blakeney in north Norfolk, Suffolk coastal towns such as Woodbridge, Orford, Aldeburgh and Southwold, beauty spots such as the Dedham Vale, Long Melford and Lavenham and villages around Norwich and Ipswich.


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Natalie Howlett-Clarke, joint head of residential sales at Savills in Norwich, said the speed at which sales have been agreed has been “extraordinary”. 

“From launching a property, arranging viewings, receiving an offer and agreeing a sale – in many cases this is happening all within the space of a week,” she said.

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Estate agents say there is little sign of the pace slowing — even when the tax breaks reduce. Buyers appear to be attracted to the lifestyle the region has to offer, along with easy access to the countryside and coast and the relative value for money on the price of homes compared to elsewhere, they say. Transport links meant people could still commute easily into London making the region “highly desirable”, said Ms Howlett-Clarke. 

“The most recent restrictions only appear to have reaffirmed people’s desire for more space and we’re not anticipating that to change any time soon. There is significant unmet demand in the prime markets which indicates that the desire to move to the country will continue beyond the end of June.”

Peter Ogilvie at Savills in Ipswich, said demand had been remarkably strong since the start of the year, with the region continuing to defy expectations. 

“New sales agreed are well above the pre-pandemic norm and there are currently a record number of transactions with solicitors — creating great pressure to exchange and complete before the end of June."

He added: “The number of buyers is at an all-time high and demand continues to outstrip supply. Consequently, stock levels across the industry are incredibly low while those properties that are available have been highly sought after. We have had several instances of competitive bidding which has led to sales in excess of the guide price.”

Caroline Edwards, country property specialist at Fenn Wright, said when the stamp duty holiday was extended from 31 March to 30 June 2021 there was a mixed reaction.

“One thing is for sure — there is no calming of the flames of this exceptional market. It is likely that no agent — however long they have been in the business —  has seen a stronger or more determined market.”

With buyers spending less on new cars and expensive holidays, homes had become a stronger focus, she said. She predicted the end of the stamp duty holiday would not have a significant impact on sales volumes or prices.

“Suffolk is no longer a well-kept secret — quite the opposite. It is now hugely in demand. 

“A large proportion of our buyers are coming from London, especially at the top end of the market,” she added. The region was also drawing buyers from more far-flung areas such as Scotland, Cornwall and Devon, she added.

Ian Kitson,director of Cheffins said they had been delighted at the success of recent auctions. “We have seen demand for houses in rural locations hit new highs in the past 12 months, and this has brought with it greater competition in the auction room between both developers and private buyers,” he said. “Properties offering large gardens in rural locations are continually the order of the day, thanks to the impact of multiple lockdowns and the coronavirus pandemic.”

Peter Hornor, of Brown & Co’s Norwich office, said demand was high and supply tight. “I suspect that June will come and go and demand will remain fairly constant,” he said.

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