London loosens grip on high-value property market as house prices surge

Surging house prices over the last year have loosened London’s grip on the high-value property market, according to analysis of official data by Search Acumen, the property data and insight provider.

The residential property market has recovered at pace since summer 2020 when the country exited the first Covid-19 lockdown, fuelled by pent-up demand and HM Treasury’s Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) holiday.

With sales boosted to record levels and UK house prices rising at a rate of 10% annually¹, Search Acumen’s analysis of data from HM Land Registry shows nearly one in five home purchases (19%) across England and Wales are now valued at £500,000 or more. This compares with just 11% in 2018.

The market for properties priced at £1m+ has also boomed with 3% of sales now landing above this price point, up from 2% in 2018. In total, 15,560 house sales were agreed for £1m+ across England and Wales last year, equivalent to 43 per day and exceeding the totals for 2018 and 2019 despite the spring shutdown.

The North West (15.2%), Wales (13.3%) and North East (11.8%) have set the pace for regional house price growth across England and Wales over the last year¹. Over the same period, London house prices have grown by 5.2%, the lowest measure of any region.

As a result, Search Acumen has found that more than half of houses purchased for £1m+ are now located outside Greater London, for the first time on record. The capital’s share of this market has shrunk from 58% in 2018 to 48% so far this year.

Similarly, more than two thirds (68%) of house purchases above £500,000 are now taking place outside the capital, compared with 61% in 2018.

Table 1: Residential property sales in England and Wales priced at £500k+ and £1m+, 2018 to 2021 YTD

  2018 2019 2020 2021 YTD
House purchases at £1m+ Number 15,534 15,338 15,560 4,881
% of all sales for England and Wales 2% 2% 2% 3%
% within Greater London 58% 57% 53% 48%
% outside Greater London 42% 43% 47% 52%
House purchases at £500,000+ Number 99,788 98,293 93,865 33,105
% of all sales for England and Wales 11% 12% 14% 19%
% within Greater London 39% 38% 36% 32%
% outside Greater London 61% 62% 64% 68%

 Graph 1: A growing share of house sales for £500k+ and £1m+ are now taking place outside Greater London

The rise in house prices and spread of high-value sales across England and Wales means that more diverse areas of the country are now attracting homebuyers in the £500,000+ and £1m+ price bracket.

Areas associated with London’s traditional commuter belt – including Surrey, Hertfordshire, Essex and Kent – have seen the highest volume of purchases for £500,000+ so far this year. But the areas that have seen the most growth since 2018 are spread more widely as far as Ceredigion in Wales, North Lincolnshire, Wrekin in Shropshire and Blackburn with Darwen.

Similarly, while Richmond, Oxford and Leatherhead saw the most £1m+ purchases last year, the areas registering the biggest increase in sales at this price bracket were more broadly spread with Falmouth, Christchurch, York and King’s Lynn all appearing in the top ten for growth since 2018.

Table 2: High-value house purchase hotspots across England and Wales, outside Greater London

Areas with £500k+ purchases Areas with £1m+ purchases
Most activity
2020
Biggest increase
2018-2020**
Most activity
2020
Biggest increase
2018-2020**
Surrey Ceredigion Richmond Falmouth
Hertfordshire North Lincolnshire Oxford Bedford
Hampshire Wrekin Leatherhead Kings Langley
Essex Blackburn w/ Darwen Bristol Whitstable
Kent Flintshire Sevenoaks Christchurch
West Sussex Denbighshire Twickenham York
Buckinghamshire Pembrokeshire Guildford Warlingham
Oxfordshire County Durham Poole Dartmouth
Devon Isle Of Wight Reading Uxbridge
Gloucestershire Halton Esher King’s Lynn

*Areas listed by volume of sales (highest first)

** Areas listed by % increase in sales volumes (highest first, excludes areas with fewer than 10 sales per year at this price point)

Andy Sommerville, Director at Search Acumen, says:

“These figures may not show the kind of levelling up that Government has in mind, but they suggest the property market is being reshaped by recent political and economic events, including Brexit alongside Covid-19, and policy responses such as the Stamp Duty holiday. London’s monopoly on higher value homes has come to an end, and legal firms across the country will find themselves dealing with increasingly high-stakes transactions.

“It’s becoming more and more common for buyers to part with significant amounts of money to move up the property ladder, with almost one in five homes having a price tag of at least £500,000. But despite all this investment, the process of buying a house is still stubbornly stuck in the past, with premium prices accompanied by the same stress, angst and uncertainty that has plagued the market for years.

“With increasing sums at stake, it’s woefully inadequate that transactions can still hang in the balance for weeks or even months after an offer is accepted, while legal firms wait for information to complete due diligence. Paper based processes have long outstayed their welcome, and the drive towards digital during the pandemic should accelerate the use of real-time data to deliver a more transparent, efficient and ultimately rewarding experience.”

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