From city flats to countryside houses | The uplift of home searches since lockdown

Have you dreamed of selling up and moving to the countryside? Many of us have. And, in the wake of COVID-19, increasing numbers are turning this dream into a reality, as home searches in rural areas begin to soar post-lockdown.

Let's take a closer look at this apparent urban exodus, and examine some of the factors at work.

The urban exodus, what is it?

For as long as there have been cities, there have been preconceptions about cities.

Cities are vast. Cities are scary. Cities are crime-ridden. Cities are dirty. Cities are polluted. And then, conversely: Cities are fun. Cities are exciting. Cities are where the action is. Cities are the place to be.

When the latter is no longer enough to counteract the former — well, that's when we know we have outgrown city living.

But an exodus refers to something more than this. It refers to something more profound. Certainly, many of us dream of a move from the city to the country, citing everything from reduced crime and cleaner air to better deals on car insurance, but these are personal choices. They do not constitute an exodus.

An exodus, rather is a movement of people en masse  in this case, from an urban area to a rural one. This is precisely what many property experts are predicting all over the world, not least in the UK. While some, including Harvard Political Review's Will Imbrie-Moore, have cast doubt upon "simplistic" claims that the viral spread in urban areas is exclusively the result of population density, the public perception of "the city" as a concept has suffered greatly during the pandemic.

The increase in people looking to buy houses outside the city

But this is not really going to happen, is it? After all, talk of selling up and moving to a dairy farm in the Cotswolds, a la Alex James from Blur, is generally just that: talk. People don't do that in real life, at least not in such vast numbers. 

Well, it seems that many people are. In May 2020, as COVID-19 and related restrictions really began to bite down on British society, The Guardian reported vast increases in estate agent property searches for homes in rural areas

Locations such as Sandbanks in Dorset — already the haunt of celebrities such as Harry Redknapp, among others — and St. Davids in Wales experienced increases of well over 50 per cent. A number of areas across South Devon experienced the same.

However, all of the spots listed above are within a few hours' commute from London and are in fairly close proximity with lots of other major cities. It seems, for many, this was not enough.

Interest in properties around the Highland city of Inverness grew by an astonishing 175 per cent, while nearby Ullapool also experienced a boost of around 40 per cent. Perhaps even more incredible was the surge in popularity experienced by Shetland — arguably one of the most remote property markets in the British Isles — which touched 130 per cent.

What are the benefits of rural living?

So, what is all this in aid of exactly? What are homebuyers hoping to achieve when they escape to the country? We've already touched on a few factors:

  • Lower crime rates
  • Better air quality
  • Savings on expenses such as car insurance

But there are many more factors at play here:

  • Big cities have been hit much harder by the coronavirus pandemic than rural areas. This tells homebuyers that rural areas are generally healthier.
  • Shifts toward remote work now mean that professionals can keep their good jobs in the city, while living in somewhere quieter.
  • The Guardian report showed that couples with children are far more likely to seek rural properties than their childless counterparts, demonstrating the perception of the British countryside as a great place to raise kids.
  • Most of the areas of the UK with the best levels of longevity are rural areas. However, this could equally be down to social and economic factors, rather than the location itself.


The take-home message here is that, yes, rural living can have a huge impact on our lives. However, it is not a quick fix. There are hardships involved, not to mention that selling up and moving to a new part of the country is simply not feasible — if not impossible — for most of us.

Rather than uprooting our whole lives, a careful and considered approach to health and hygiene is all that's required to keep our families safe and healthy. This is why we have developed our convenient, effective, and affordable hand sanitiser, aimed at keeping you and your family safe.

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