Tenants are increasingly snubbing inner-city rental hotspots in favour of commuter zones and small towns close to major cities as fewer trips to the office are expected to remain part of the new normal.
It means that outer London areas like Chessington in zone six and South Norwood in zone four are in great demand, while rental searches in areas like Earl’s Court and West Kensington have dropped by 40 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.
Rightmove observed that people are ditching traditional inner city living for quieter areas with good transport links as they take advantage of the trend towards more remote working.
Rental refocus: Tenants are ditching inner city life styles for more space and a quieter life out in the counties and outer city zones
Commenting on analysis, which was based on over 60million rental searches, the online portal’s property expert Miles Shipside said: ‘Since the market reopened in May we’ve seen a growing trend of buyers looking to move out of urban areas and it appears renters are now following suit.
‘As working from home becomes the new normal for many people, and lesser significance is placed on living near a station to commute into central hubs, the appeal of living in quieter areas with more green spaces is becoming too attractive to ignore for tens of thousands of renters.
‘No-one knows what the future holds, but at the moment, it’s clear to see that places with a slower pace of life are top of renters’ home-hunting wish-lists.’
Thousands are looking to enhance their quality of life this year with rental searches across the UK up by 34 per cent in August compared to August last year.
Chessington and Kingston upon Thames saw the biggest annual rise in rental searches in London, with searches almost doubling (up 99 per cent) compared to the same period in 2019.
Tenants can expect to pay an average monthly rent of £1,258 in Chessington, which is a 4.3 per cent year on year increase, but still a whopping £742 cheaper than average rents across London as a whole.
Tenants are searching to rent homes in major cities outside of London, with Cambridge, Cirencester and Oxford taking the top three spots
Competition is stiff though with rental agents reporting 100 prospective tenants enquiring about a single property in some cases.
Vinesh Mistry, sales and lettings manager at Parry & Drewettin Chessington, said: ‘We’ve seen lots of interest from bigger neighbouring towns like Surbiton and Sutton and there’s great value for money here.
‘We’re a smaller community, there are only about 3,500 chimney pots in Chessington, so when something comes up there is a good fight for it. People want more space and bigger gardens now more than ever so houses are hugely in demand right now.
‘We recently advertised a lovely two-bed Victorian cottage and had 125 viewing requests. We whittled that down to a shortlist of about half a dozen viewings and they all offered the asking rent, so you can see that the demand is there.
When it comes to London-living it’s the outer zones like Chessington, South Norwood and Barnet that are preferred over places like Earls Court and Clapham
‘I think a lot of the demand is due to more people being able to work from home, and we’ve got plenty of good shops and restaurants here to keep people busy without the place feeling packed.’
Meanwhile, two of the business stations in London – Clapham Junction and Earls Court – have both dropped in the number of searches this year, reinforcing the suggestion that renters prefer quieter transport links.
For those seeking a home outside of London, Cambridge is the prevailing hotspot, according to Rightmove, with annual rental searches up by 76 per cent.
Here, tenants are paying around £1,319 in rent each month which is almost £90 more expensive than the national average, but again still cheaper than London by £681.
Paula Bereznyckyj, head of residential lettings at Jackson-Stops’ Newmarket branch, said: ‘I haven’t seen demand for rental properties on the Cambridgeshire and Suffolk border quite like this before.
‘Some properties on our books are being let within 24 hours of the listings going live, with homes with gardens and additional space for homeworking in particularly high demand.
Earls Court, West Kensington and New Cross Gate have become less popular as renters seek a quieter life according to Rightmove data
‘With Cambridge home to some of the country’s top research companies, we’re seeing professionals moving here for work, renting just outside of the city centre and commuting in.
‘For those with big or growing families, space is a must-have right now so many are upping sticks from London to get more bang for their buck.
‘Those not in a position to buy are renting as an interim measure while they get to know Cambridgeshire and see if it is the right fit for them before committing to a permanent relocation.’
Sarah Bush, head of lettings at Cambridge-based Cheffins, added: ‘Employment and education are two major factors driving the popularity of Cambridge as a hotspot for people looking to rent property in the city.
‘The science and bio-tech parks, which are on the city’s doorstep, bring with them a wealth of job opportunities. People employed by the likes of Astra Zeneca and Microsoft want to live within a short distance of their place of employment.
‘The days of the long commute are rapidly becoming a thing of the past and this has been expedited by the pandemic.”
Even though Cambridge is in such demand, the cost of renting has increased by just one per cent compared to this time last year.
Cirencester in Gloucestershire saw the second biggest hike in rental searches outside the capital – up by 75 per cent.
Other counties in the top ten for rental searches include Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire, Kent and Buckinghamshire.