The extent to which our city and town centres will change has been widely debated following the almost wholesale shift towards working from home rather than the office.
Many have been discussing to what extent those who live in towns and cities will continue to do so if the work element isn’t there. Would people want to live in a crowded urban area if the benefit of work wasn’t a deciding factor?
The true picture is unlikely to become clear until years in the future, however, what we can currently do is observe what we have seen over the past 12 to 18 months, to paint an accurate representation of the picture so far.
Given that there have been lockdown restrictions in place nationally for the best part of a year, it’s perhaps unsurprising that there appears to have been little movement out of cities in terms of the statistics and research so far.
Of course, there have been those that are older that have taken the opportunity to move out into the country, however, there doesn’t appear to have been any significant occurrence of this amongst the rest of the working-age population just yet.
In fact, some new research has been released over these past few weeks that may well give us a better indication of what city and town centres may look like over the coming 12 months.
According to a survey by The Deposit Protection Service, reported by Landlord Today, “of some 1,300-plus tenants who said they moved during the six months up to January 2021, the proportion of respondents aged between 60 and 75 now living in rural areas increased by nine per cent to 39 per cent.
The proportion of tenants in the same age group living in towns decreased by seven per cent to 38 per cent, and roughly halved in city centres to just three per cent in total.
Conversely, the proportion of 18 to 35 year olds saying they were now renting property in towns increased by five per cent to 50 per cent; the number of 18 to 22 year olds living in rural areas fell the sharpest of any group in the survey, from 13 per cent to six per cent.”
Whilst the nature of city centres is somewhat expected to shift away from a work and business focus, this is likely to give way to a much more socially centric centre for tenants and residents.
To imagine that people wouldn’t want to live in a city or town centre just because they don’t need to work there is incredibly short sighted and wilfully misses the main reasons for living in a thriving urban centre – night life, social life, convenience and lifestyle - that simply won’t change any time soon.
So then, leading on to the important question, if you’re a property investor what does this mean for you?
Speaking frankly and plainly, there is absolutely no indication that demand for city and town centre property will abate any time soon just because people won’t be working in offices as much.
It might make a catchy and high-traffic article to suggest that everybody is emigrating out into rural areas but it simply isn’t true and all research and statistics actually suggest the opposite – that city and town centres will continue to thrive.
So, in real terms, we would advise that property investors should continue to invest in city centre properties and apartments for very much the same reason they did in the beginning – demand will always be there.
Rising yields, rents and prices should tell its own story, but it’s always helpful to understand that wider context too.