House hunters dreaming of remote escapes

FOR many, it is the go-to daydream. With money in the bank and not a care in the world, where would you escape to?

A lone farmhouse perched by the hills in the Shetlands. Photo: ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images

It seems that with time on our hands and thoughts of a new way of living, coastal escapes, glamorous locations popular with celebrities and areas captured on the small screen in television dramas are seeing a surge of interest from house hunters during the coronavirus lockdown.

Property website Rightmove compared searches last month with April 2019 to pinpoint the locations which have seen the biggest increases in interest.

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Remote locations by the sea or in the countryside, and even the Bedfordshire village where Keighley-born Colonel Tom Moore carried out his record-breaking fundraising garden walk feature in the top ten areas seeing increased interest online.

Inverness and the Shetland Islands in Scotland saw the biggest rise in searches, increasing by 167 per cent and 131 per cent respectively. The BBC’s popular murder-mystery drama Shetland was previously said to have boosted tourism on the islands.

Duncan Chisholm, director of Munro and Noble in Inverness, said: “The city has been developing quickly in recent years and so the fact that it’s still relatively affordable compared to other cities around the UK makes it an appealing place to live. Not to mention the amazing scenery, beaches and hillsides that we’re fortunate to have on our doorstep.”

Col Moore’s village of Marston Moretaine also takes a spot in the top 10, with a 46 per cent increase, and picturesque St Davids in Pembrokeshire, Wales, has had a 58 per cent rise.

The research also suggests people have been occupying some of their time by browsing through dream million-pound properties in recent weeks - perhaps looking for some escapism.

Sandbanks in Poole, where the average house price is £1.2m, has seen the third biggest increase in property searches, at 64 per cent. ITV show Harry Redknapp’s Sandbanks Summer gave audiences an insight into the exclusive celebrity hangout, referred to as “the Hamptons of England”.

Steve Isaacs, director of Luxury and Prestige in Sandbanks, said: “Sandbanks is the ultimate lifestyle location in the UK, though we know there’s only a fortunate few who are lucky enough to afford to live in the area.

“It has miles and miles of fabulous beaches.”

Belgravia - also the title of an ITV period drama from Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes - has seen a 42 per cent increase in searches, despite the average price tag being upwards of £3 million.

Rightmove housing market analyst Miles Shipside said: “People often use Rightmove to daydream, so it’s not surprising to see some of the search areas on the up being the most expensive in the UK.

“The beautiful areas in the far north in the list are likely a mixture of people dreaming of living somewhere more remote, and those seriously thinking about changing their lifestyle after lockdown.

“Locations in Scotland feature three times in the list, and with property prices comparatively affordable compared to others in the top 10, it’s highly likely that properties in these areas will find buyers more quickly when restrictions are eased.

“As well as the UK public expressing their passion for property, there seems to be a growing desire to find a quiet place to live.”

Inspired to move? Here are the top ten, with the increase in interest, followed by average price:

1. Inverness, 167%, £201,654

2. Shetland Islands, 131%, £184,432

3. Sandbanks, 64%, £1,276,654

4. St Davids, 58%, £328,978

5. South Devon, 54%, £254,079

6. Marston Moretaine, 46%, £317,607

7. Belgravia, 42%, £3,070,434

8. Cotswolds, 32%, £380,314

9. Ullapool, 30%, £199,964

10. Mayfair, 26%, £4,596,733*