Sam Butler Comments;
‘The year 2020 has been one of the most exciting, and exacting years of my professional life in the property market. In March 2020, Covid catapulted the nation into Lockdown; the offices closed and we all began working remotely from home in isolation. Many fully expected the property market to come to a swift halt, with values even dropping off the edge of a cliff. The Cotswolds, however, have proved yet again that they are one of the most desirable places in the country in which to live, and now, from which to work, as well.
There is no doubt that the pandemic has fuelled a migration from towns, and especially from London, into the countryside. People who were able to live in their second homes out of town chose to work from them and keep the family as safe as they perceived they could, as well as reaping the benefits of access to open spaces. As the technological revolution advanced a decade overnight, and we all learned to meet by Zoom or Teams, the fear engendered by the virus grew, fear of contracting it, and fear of unemployment, which was only slightly ameliorated by the Furlough Scheme. We became glued to Boris’s 5pm broadcasts to the nation, hanging on to details of rises in cases of infection, transmission and deaths, whilst the country was in the midst of an unseasonally early heat wave.
As people began to find working from home viable, many decided to take advantage of a chance to spend more time in the countryside. The second homes market in the Cotswolds has played a strong part in the activity witnessed in the residential property market here. Local people considering a move, and especially a downsize have decided to take advantage of the high level of demand and cash coming out of London. In addition, many with young families finding themselves working for the foreseeable future from home, have decided to emigrate to the countryside entirely.
The Cotswolds has always benefitted from good road and rail communications, being no more than two hours from central London. Coupled with Fastershire/ Gloucestershire investment in broadband speeds, the area was poised to capitalise on the strength of interest in attractive properties across all price brackets. This level of demand has culminated in the most exciting and profitable year for many of the residential agents in the Cotswolds.
Looking to the year ahead, and monitoring the level of interest in terms of new buyers registering, there clearly is a solid and sustained level of momentum in the market. However, whilst to date the pandemic may have benefitted specific sectors of the residential property market, Brexit continues to loom large, together with all the uncertainties it poses at this stage for the country and the economy. Nothing can be assumed, and even with the glimmer of hope offered by a vaccine, the road to the resumption of normal life will long and rough. The Government has taken unprecedented steps in peacetime to bolster the economy, save jobs and businesses. However, the cost to succeeding generations will be of a magnitude not experienced since the war, and at some stage taxation will be the only route to recompense.
Turning specifically to the residential market in the Cotswolds in 2021, stock is low, which it always tends to be over the Christmas period, into early January. We have unusually launched properties through the latter weeks of the year, which have been snapped up and we are receiving a consistent number of invitations to value and pitch. If the fog surrounding Brexit clears, with a fair wind, the momentum developed by the pandemic in our market looks likely to be sustained in 2021. This is likely to be the first of any number of pandemics. In addition, there will always be more wishing to leave the Cities for the countryside than there are homes in the commutable areas to satisfy demand.’