Flats ‘making a comeback’ as home buyer demand for city-centre living jumps

City-centre living is staging a comeback, with buyer demand for flats increasing by 39% since January, according to a website.

York, Norwich, Sheffield, Birmingham, Glasgow, Cardiff and Manchester are among the cities that have experienced buyer demand in their centres increasing since the start of 2021, Rightmove said.

It added that while larger family homes have tended to be the strongest performers in the housing market over the past year, the focus is now shifting to flats.

Cardiff Bay
Cardiff Bay earlier this year. Cardiff city centre is one of the areas where buyer demand has increased, according to Rightmove (Ben Birchall/PA)

Buyer demand is measured by the number of people contacting estate agents to request more details about a property for sale on Rightmove.

The easing of coronavirus restrictions and the recent introduction of the Government-backed 5% deposit mortgage guarantee scheme are said to be helping to boost demand.

A Rightmove survey of more than 1,000 first-time buyers found nearly one in five (17%) are planning to use the mortgage guarantee scheme or are already using it.

The study also indicated that while the desire to move to a quieter location has been driving parts of the housing market over the past year, this is not as appealing to first-time buyers.

While more than a quarter (28%) of existing home owners planning to move in the next 12 months cited a move to the countryside or coast as their motivation, only 10% of first-time buyers were considering doing this.

Rightmove’s housing expert Tim Bannister said: “These are early signs but they certainly point to some good news for city centres across Great Britain, with a number of agents now telling me they’ve seen a marked uptick in demand from first-time buyers, and they’re managing to sell city-centre flats more quickly than in earlier months of the year.

“People starting to venture in to their local high streets and once again experiencing the buzz of their city centres, along with greater mortgage availability for first-time buyers, means city centres are staging a much-needed comeback in the market.

“Right now some buyers are able to grab a relative city bargain compared to the heady price growth outside cities, but these early signs of demand could be the start of city prices rising again.”

Shoppers in Birmingham earlier this year (Jacob King/PA)

Andy McHugo, associate director at James Laurence estate agents in Birmingham, said: “Not only are inquiry levels fantastic, committed residential buyers are now returning. The dynamic may have changed slightly, so apartments with balconies or terrace are proving popular, as are those with room for a home office, a second and third bedroom for example.”

He said large company relocations to Birmingham and entrepreneurial start-ups help make the city “an exciting place in which to invest, and indeed live”.

Steve Pymm, managing director of Pymm & Co in Norwich said: “The market has been crying out for 95% LTV (loan-to-value) mortgages for years, so since the release of these lower deposit-based products the first-time buyer is back and they’re snapping up apartments and starter homes.”

Here are the increases in buyer demand by property type between January and April 2021, according to Rightmove:

– Flat, 39%

– Bungalow, 30%

– Detached house, 26%

– Terraced house, 24%

– Semi-detached house, 23%

And here are city centres that have seen big increases in buyer demand between January and April 2021, with the percentage increase:

– York, 76%

– Norwich, 62%

– Sheffield, 57%

– Southampton, 55%

– Leicester, 53%

– Newcastle, 51%

– Nottingham, 39%

– Leeds, 39%

– Birmingham, 39%

– Inner London, 30%

– Oxford, 28%

– Glasgow, 28%

– Liverpool, 28%

– Chester, 24%

– Edinburgh, 23%

– Hull, 22%

– Durham, 17%

– Cardiff, 11%

– Manchester, 11%

– Bristol, 5%