The must-haves for modern buyers used to be trendy home cinemas and gadget-laden kitchens. But, since coronavirus struck, just one thing tops the list — a garden.
An overwhelming 81 per cent of estate agents questioned by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors say homes with gardens or balconies will be in greater demand over the next two years, along with houses near green spaces.
Meanwhile, searches for homes on sale with private open space on property listing site Rightmove increased 42 per cent in May alone, as the housing market returned to business.
Much of that may be window shopping, but it highlights the desire for Britain to extend its horizons after months largely confined to home.
And even private tenants, usually wanting apartments in city centres, are changing fast, with searches for flats with gardens soaring 84 per cent last month compared to 2019.
‘Having a garden is often a rarity for renters. So it may be that, during lockdown, people are rethinking their needs and location and are searching for some outdoor space and tranquillity,’ says Rightmove’s Miles Shipside.
The rise of the greenshifter
While many of us may hanker after a bigger garden, for serious devotees there’s a far more fundamental appeal to a large plot of land, and that is for growing their own food.
‘The lockdown has unleashed a wave of passion across the country for all things gardening and particularly for growing fruit and vegetables,’ says Chris Harrop, who chaired the judging panel at the Royal Horticultural Society.
A third of a million people visited the RHS Grow Your Own website in May — up 316 per cent a year ago, while visits to pages giving tips on growing vegetables in containers soared 219 per cent.
And the favourite vegetable? In terms of RHS website visits so far this summer, it’s been potatoes, followed by tomatoes and strawberries.
However, for those who are even more ambitious, the ultimate house move in the post-coronavirus era is likely to be a greenshifter — that’s estate agent jargon for those who move from being a city slicker to owning a smallholding, consisting of several acres suitable for vegetables and some livestock, too, such as rare breed pigs, chickens and goats.
This switch from the fast lane to living the good life and trying to be self-sufficient has become something of a fashion statement in the past two decades, as hedge fund managers become hedge trimmers in the countryside.
But the change might be more deep-rooted. High-end estate agency Savills surveyed nearly 700 buyers and sellers in April and found 40 per cent were more enthusiastic than before about living in the country or in a village.
So fire up the lawnmower and dig out the pitchfork — the age of the garden has arrived.