Larger country houses with labour-intensive outside areas and heavily-protected and listed interiors had been falling out of favour in recent years but Savills insists they are now favoured over flats and smaller homes with little outside space.
Its latest quarterly index shows that a substantial £2m country house has added an average of £111,000 to its value during 2020 whereas a flat or small terraced house of similar value – even in central London – has fallen in value.
“The unique circumstances of 2020, have led to a surge in market activity at the top end of the housing market” says Lucian Cook, Savills head of residential research.
“This has supported prices and delivered some unexpected gains, but it hasn’t resulted in runaway price growth.”
The agency – using data from property consultancy TwentyCI – shows that the number of sales of £1m-plus property that were agreed in the 11 months to the end of November was 29 per cent higher than in the same period last year, despite a significant fall in activity during the first national lockdown.
The out-of-London subset of those purchases rose by a much larger 43 per cent.
“The very top end of the country house market, in particular, has had an extraordinary year – perhaps its best since the 1980s, as buyers sought a lifestyle shift and recognised the relative value on offer” says Cook.
Overall, prime regional house prices rose by 3.6 per cent in the year, while prime London values continued in the doldrums and rose by an average of just 1.1 per cent. Values in London’s most expensive central locations, where values remain almost 21% below peak, slipped by 0.4 per cent across the year, but stabilised in the final quarter.
“Given the practical implications of Covid-19, the prime central London market has relied on demand from domestic buyers and resident non-doms in 2020. In light of that, it has held up well but it simply hasn’t been able to match the performance of the regional markets or indeed the leafier parts of outer prime London” concludes Cook.
Meanwhile Knight Frank says the country house market finished 2020 with high-value properties proving to be the strongest performer during the fourth quarter.
Rural piles valued at more than £5m saw the strongest growth in the three months to December, rising 5.1 per cent. This pushed the annual rate of growth to 7.9 per cent in that price bracket.
Overall, the agency recorded an increase of 1.7 per cent for country houses in the three months to December. This took the annual price change during 2020 to 4.0 per cent, which was the best performance for more than six years.