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Why are renters moving out of busy areas?

  • More renters are looking to move to the Home Counties as office-based working and rail commutes become less frequent, new Rightmove data can reveal
  • Cambridge has seen the biggest annual rise in rental searches outside London, up 76%, while Chessington in Kingston upon Thames, up 99%, is the capital’s new rental hotspot
  • The study, based on over 60 million rental searches, suggests people are looking for quieter transport links, with Earls Court and Clapham Junction searches both declining this year
  • Only three cities, Cambridge, Oxford and Gloucester, feature in the top ten list for biggest search increases outside London

Our latest study, which analysed more than 60 million rental searches in August compared to August 2019, reveals that more renters who are looking to move outside London are planning to migrate to the Home Counties, while renters searching in the capital are home-hunting in the outer zones. Our data analysts suggest this highlights a growing trend of people wanting to move to areas with quieter transport links as office-based working and rail commutes become less frequent this year.

Across the UK, rental searches were up 34% in August compared to this time last year.

Chessington in Kingston upon Thames has seen the biggest annual rise in rental searches in London, with searches almost doubling (up 99%) compared to the same period in 2019. Agents are reporting in some cases over 100 prospective tenants enquiring about a single property.

Tenants in Chessington are paying average monthly rents of £1,258, which is a 4.3% year-on-year increase, but still £742 cheaper than average rents across London as a whole. Chessington South railway station, a Zone 6 location, is at the end of the Chessington Branch Line.

Conversely, Clapham Junction and Earls Court – two of the busiest stations in London – have both dropped in the number of searches this year, reinforcing the suggestion that renters are looking for places with quieter transport links.

Outside of London, Cambridge is the prevailing hotspot for renters, with annual rental searches up 76%. Tenants are paying asking rents of £1,319 on average each month in the university city, which is almost £90 more expensive than the national average, but still £681 cheaper than in London. The cost of renting in Cambridge has risen by just 1% compared with this time last year.

Cirencester in Gloucestershire (up 75%) has seen the second biggest annual increase in rental searches outside the capital, with places in Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire, Kent and Buckinghamshire completing the top ten.

Only three cities, Cambridge, Oxford and Gloucester, are among the rental spots seeing the biggest increases outside of London, again highlighting that renters are looking to move to less built-up areas.

Our property expert Miles Shipside said: “Since the market reopened in May we’ve seen a growing trend of buyers looking to move out of urban areas and it appears renters are now following suit. As working from home becomes the new normal for many people, and lesser significance is placed on living near a station to commute into central hubs, the appeal of living in quieter areas with more green spaces is becoming too attractive to ignore for tens of thousands of renters. No-one knows what the future holds, but at the moment, it’s clear to see that places with a slower pace of life are top of renters’ home-hunting wish-lists.”

Agents’ views

Vinesh Mistry, sales and lettings manager at Parry & Drewett in Chessington, said: “We’ve seen lots of interest from bigger neighbouring towns like Surbiton and Sutton and there’s great value for money here. We’re a smaller community, there are only about 3,500 chimney pots in Chessington, so when something comes up there is a good fight for it. People want more space and bigger gardens now more than ever so houses are hugely in demand right now. We recently advertised a lovely two-bed Victorian cottage and had 125 viewing requests. We whittled that down to a shortlist of about half a dozen viewings and they all offered the asking rent, so you can see that the demand is there. I think a lot of the demand is due to more people being able to work from home, and we’ve got plenty of good shops and restaurants here to keep people busy without the place feeling packed.”

Paula Bereznyckyj, head of residential lettings at Jackson-Stops’ Newmarket branch, said: “I haven’t seen demand for rental properties on the Cambridgeshire and Suffolk border quite like this before. Some properties on our books are being let within 24 hours of the listings going live, with homes with gardens and additional space for homeworking in particularly high demand.

“With Cambridge home to some of the country’s top research companies, we’re seeing professionals moving here for work, renting just outside of the city centre and commuting in. For those with big or growing families, space is a must-have right now so many are upping sticks from London to get more bang for their buck. Those not in a position to buy are renting as an interim measure while they get to know Cambridgeshire and see if it is the right fit for them before committing to a permanent relocation.”

Sarah Bush, head of lettings at Cambridge-based Cheffins, added: “Employment and education are two major factors driving the popularity of Cambridge as a hotspot for people looking to rent property in the city. The science and bio-tech parks, which are on the city’s doorstep, bring with them a wealth of job opportunities. People employed by the likes of Astra Zeneca and Microsoft want to live within a short distance of their place of employment. The days of the long commute are rapidly becoming a thing of the past and this has been expedited by the pandemic.”


Top 10 biggest annual increases in rental searches outside London, Aug 2020 vs Aug 2019:

Place County Annual change
Cambridge Cambridgeshire +76%
Cirencester Gloucestershire +75%
Oxford Oxfordshire +64%
Bishop’s Stortford Hertfordshire +62%
Gloucester Gloucestershire +62%
Folkestone Kent +62%
Sale  Greater Manchester +61%
High Wycombe Buckinghamshire +61%
Abingdon-on-Thames  Oxfordshire +60%
Margate Kent +60%


Top 10 biggest annual increases in rental searches in London, Aug 2020 vs Aug 2019:

Place Area Annual change
Chessington South West London +99%
South Norwood South East London +83%
Barnet  North London +70%
Colindale North West London +67%
Barnes South West London +64%
Muswell Hill North London +61%
Kingston Kingston upon Thames +59%
Winchmore Hill North London +59%
Hackney Wick  East London +58%
De Beauvoir Town North London +58%


Top 10 biggest annual decline in rental searches in London, Aug 2020 vs Aug 2019:

Place Area Annual change
Earls Court South West London -40%
West Kensington  West London -25%
New Cross Gate South East London -20%
Moorgate Central London -17%
New Cross South East London -14%
Earlsfield  South West London -13%
Southfields  South West London -11%
Euston North West London -10%
Clapham Junction South West London -9%
Barons Court West London -6%