If new research from The Cumberland Building Society is to be believed, you can forget your trendy kitchen diners, en-suite bathrooms and underfloor heating – what buyers want most from their homes in 2022 isn’t the house at all, it isn’t even in the house, but the garden, and that’s particularly pronounced among first time buyers, The Cumberland found.
The study shows that the main driver of sales during the lockdowns of 2020 was a big garden. And it reveals the country's three property hotspots based on that criteria are in Pembrokeshire, Norfolk and Nottinghamshire.
It looked at more than a million private property transactions and found that the places with the biggest gardens were also the most likely to see a boost – both in the number of houses sold and prices paid.
The analysis – the first of its kind – combined two key data sources from the Land Registry for prices paid and the Office for National Statistics on the average private garden sizes.
Commenting on the survey's findings, Daniel Copley, consumer spokesperson at property website and app Zoopla, said: "The pandemic has led to a once-in-a-lifetime reassessment of home for many Brits, with the search for space leading to gardens and balconies becoming more important than ever before for a certain cohort of home hunters, as well as features like home offices as hybrid working becomes the norm.”
Of the 720 neighbourhoods with the biggest gardens, more than three-quarters saw average property prices rise in 2020 compared to 2019.
Will Park, The Cumberland's cluster manager for Carlisle, said this research confirmed what they had been seeing at branch level in terms of property sales – there is a demand for homes with gardens.
“A garden has always been a desirable asset for any homeowner,” he added, “and the advantages of having your own private, outside space were never more clear than during the lockdowns of the last two years.
“We would encourage people to bring their gardens up to the best standard possible, particularly if they are looking to sell their house.
“That's something we've been able to help with at The Cumberland, by providing an advance on a customer's mortgage, or re-mortgage if they're with another provider.”
And it wasn't just that prices rose fastest in neighbourhoods with bigger gardens – there were proportionately more sales too.
Of those 720 neighbourhoods – the 10 per cent of neighbourhoods with the biggest average garden size – 201 are in the South East of England. A further 129 are in the South West. Only 30 are in Yorkshire and the Humber, and only seven in the North East of England.
To find the country's hotspots the 720 were then filtered by the following criteria: they must be in the 10 per cent of neighbourhoods with the biggest average garden size; the average property must have been below £250,000 in 2020; the median price must have risen by at least five per cent in 2020; and house sales must have increased in 2020 compared to 2019.
The hotspots according to these criteria were in Pembrokeshire, Norfolk and Nottinghamshire.
Cilgerran and Crymych in Pembrokeshire, Wales
A neighbourhood in rural Wales, dotted with fine houses and rolling countryside and based around two villages. The median garden in the area is 528.1 square metres, and 110 houses were sold there in 2020 – up from 93 the previous year. The median price paid for a property rose from £164,950 in 2019 to £179,975 in 2020.
Mundford, Weeting and Forest in Breckland, Norfolk
Another neighbourhood based on twin villages, this time in the heart of England's East, between Cambridge and Norwich. The median garden size in the area is 484.2 square metres, and house sales rose from 92 in 2019 to 106 in 2020. Median property prices were up from £222,498 to £239,500.
Tuxford, Markham and Rampton in Bassetlaw, Nottinghamshire
A stretch of rural communities in the East Midlands, equally handy for Nottingham, Sheffield and Lincoln. The median garden size is 401.1 square metres; house sales rose from 105 in 2019 to 107 in 2020. Median property prices were £207,599 in 2019, but £225,000 in 2020.
The study was inspired by the results of The Great First Time Buyer Survey, carried out by The Cumberland last summer, which revealed that out of the 200 first time buyers asked, 85 per cent thought having a garden is important when it comes to buying their first home.
The results are in stark contrast to buyers’ priorities before the pandemic. Back in 2018, research by property company Savills made little mention of gardens – it was all about the living space.
And some respondents in The Cumberland's survey of first time buyers even said that they worked on the garden before they started on any other house project – confirmation indeed that creating somewhere where they could get away from everything and relax was a priority.
Former principal chairman of BBC Radio 4's Gardeners' Question Time, Eric Robson OBE, said it was no surprise that gardens were high on people's list of priorities.
He said that having access to outdoor space of your own had a positive impact on mental health, which has been highlighted over the lprotracted lockdowns of 2020 and 2021.
He said: “We've seen this put into sharp focus by the pandemic and the lockdowns, that here is a bit of precious space for people who, if they didn't have a garden, would be hemmed in.
“It is increasingly acknowledged that gardens have great benefits for mental health, for keeping people on the straight and narrow at difficult times. I'm sure that is one of the reasons that the number has gone up.
“Gardening has had a reputation in the past of being for older people, rather a fuddy duddy activity. Increasingly I was finding on Gardeners Question Time the age profile of the audience was shifting, more younger people were getting into gardening. People were getting into gardening at an earlier stage in their lives.”
Carlisle-headquartered The Cumberland Building Society is the 10th biggest in the UK, based on total assets of around £2.5bn.