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Rental searches surge in Zones 1 & 2 as renters seek return

  • There are signs renters are taking advantage of falling prices by planning a move to Zones 1 &  2, with searches on Rightmove doubling in areas like Nine Elms, Battersea, and Clapham
  • All of Rightmove’s top 10 latest rental hotspots are in Zones 1 & 2, a stark contrast to last August’s rental searches, when eight of the top 10 hotspots were outside of Zone 2
  • On average the top ten London search areas have seen a fall of 15% in asking rents over the past year

There are signs more renters are planning to rent in Zones 1 & 2 as falling prices give people the chance to relocate now before rents rise again, according to new data out today.  Our latest study, which analysed over 23 million London searches, reveals that annual searches for rental homes in areas of Zones 1 & 2 have jumped significantly.

Nine Elms in Wandsworth has seen the biggest annual rise in rental searches in the capital, up 126%, with average asking rents in the area now at £2,802 per calendar month, down 15% compared to a year ago. Next up is another Wandsworth location – Battersea – which has also seen rental searches more than double over the past 12 months (+111%), followed by Clapham Common (+109%). Rightmove’s data analysts suggest this highlights a growing trend of people wanting to move back to urban hubs.

All of Rightmove’s top 10 latest rental hotspots are within Zones 1 & 2. This is in stark contrast to last August when renters searching in the capital were home-hunting in the outer zones. Chessington topped the list in August, and all but two of the top 10 hotspots were located in Zone 3 and beyond.

Rightmove’s data last summer reflected a shift in people wanting to move to areas with quieter transport links as office-based working and rail commutes became less frequent. However, the tide appears to be turning, with annual growth of rental searches in Inner London now outperforming last summer’s search activity. For example, last August Canary Wharf ranked 203rd in terms of annual growth in rental searches (+20%), but the urban hub has now moved up the rankings to 8th place, with annual search growth of 89%.

Rightmove’s Director of Property Data Tim Bannister said: “Last year we identified a clear trend of renters moving out to quieter parts of Greater London as the allure of life in the city centre became less appealing during lockdown. However, with the prospect of some kind of normality potentially on the horizon, it appears that the capital’s renters are now looking to return to Inner London, and making the move now to take advantage of the lower rents. Our list of London’s top rental hotspots is dominated by locations in Zones 1 and 2 and that represents a significant shift in search behaviour.”

Agents’ views

Lucy Pendleton, co-founder at James Pendleton in Southwest London, said: “We’ve undoubtedly seen renewed interest from renters looking to move to places across Nine Elms and Battersea. This part of London is a great place to live and there are lots of little pockets of communities that cater for everybody’s taste. It’s a really vibrant, busy part of the capital that – especially in normal circumstances – has a brilliant social scene and also plenty of green spaces given how close we are to the heart of the city. There were lots of people who thought that London would turn into a ghost town over lockdown, and yes, some people have moved further afield but that migration happens every year.

“It’s motivated by a change in lifestyle and predominantly because of growing families wanting to be near certain schools. However, in terms of lettings revenue, we’ve now surpassed where we were at this stage in 2019 and 2020 – so people still do want to live in the city. I’m sure that working patterns will continue to evolve, as they have done over the past year or so, and that may mean more home working than before, but once pubs and bars and the rest of that industry reopens, I expect we’ll continue to see interest increase even further.”

Glynis Frew, CEO of Hunters Estate Agents, added: “Despite short term uncertainty and some people moving out of London temporarily, the fact is that most young professionals want to be amongst the buzz of the city – it’s the reason they moved here in the first place. With the vaccine providing light at the end of the tunnel now, many will be planning their next move as life starts to return to normal and their places of work start to open up again. The Battersea Power Station transformation is almost complete and with the Northern Line extension set to finally open this year, it is little surprise that Nine Elms and Battersea are hot prospects, particularly given their proximity to the Thames and open green spaces.”

Top 10 biggest annual increases rental searches in London in February 2021 and change in asking rents:

Place Borough Annual % change in rental searches Annual change in average monthly rent (pcm) Avg rent Feb 2021 (pcm) Avg rent Feb 2020 (pcm)
Nine Elms Wandsworth 126% -15% £2,802 £3,296
Battersea Wandsworth 111% -10% £2,569 £2,854
Clapham Common Lambeth 109% -3% £2,071 £2,135
Clapham Lambeth 97% -11% £2,305 £2,590
Rotherhithe Southwark 93% -15% £1,644 £1,934
Hyde Park Westminster 92% -30% £2,346 £3,351
Primrose Hill Camden 89% -12% £2,609 £2,965
Canary Wharf Tower Hamlets 89% -16% £1,974 £2,350
Canonbury Islington 89% -16% £1,930 £2,298
Notting Hill Kensington and Chelsea 86% -19% £2,881 £3,557

Top 10 biggest annual increases rental searches in London in August 2020:

Place Borough Annual change
Chessington Kingston Upon Thames +99%
South Norwood Croydon +83%
Barnet Barnet +70%
Colindale Barnet +67%
Barnes Richmond Upon Thames +64%
Muswell Hill Haringey +61%
Kingston Kingston upon Thames +59%
Winchmore Hill Enfield +59%
Hackney Wick Hackney +58%
De Beauvoir Town Hackney +58%


The time period for rental searches is 1st February 2021 to 28th February 2021 versus 1st February 2020 to 29th February 2020.