The up-and-coming towns where millennials are finding bargain homes
On Friday evenings, as workers get ready for the weekend, Stockport’s ancient market square comes to life.
Grazing on street food, sipping a beer and listening to live music, Stockport’s monthly “foodie Friday” has become a huge draw and a symbol of how this industrial town, for so long overshadowed by its towering neighbour, Manchester, is evolving. The town centre is starting to fill up with independent cafes, chic restaurants, gastropubs and bars, co-working spaces and vintage shops.
Last year Simon and Tiffany Clark bought their first home together – a three-bedroom doer-upper in Woodsmoor, two miles south of the city centre. With a budget of just over £300,000, the couple could have opted to move to Manchester, where Mr Clark has lived for most of his adult life and where he still works as a corporate account manager for a software firm.
But these thirty-somethings decided to swerve the Northern Quarter, central Manchester’s hippest neighbourhood, leapfrog the city’s leafy suburbs, and set up home in an up-and-coming town with its own distinctive character. All over the UK, millennial buyers like Simon, 36, and Tiffany, 39, a teacher, are making similar decisions. Priced out of city centres, they are creating a halo of new hotspots around major cities.
According to research by estate agent Savills and credit firm Experian, the locations with the largest number of buyers in their 30s over the last four years are all in Scotland.
In East Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire, to the north and south-west of Glasgow respectively, and Midlothian, south of Edinburgh, more than a fifth of buyers are in their 30s. Swathes of Surrey, Essex and Kent, an easy commute to London, and the Ribble Valley, just north of Blackburn, and Eastleigh, to the north of Southampton, all also score strongly on the millennial front.
In Stockport, where the average price of a flat is £170,000, just over 19pc of homes are bought by buyers aged 31 to 40.
Mr and Mrs Clark joined the influx partly to be close to family, but also because they could afford to buy a family house rather than a flat. They have spent the past year renovating the property.
“Stockport has gone through a bit of a revitalisation in the last few years, I think because so many young people are moving in,” said Mr Clark.
The data reveal not only the locations where millennials have the spending power to buy a home, but also the markets where buyer demand could remain strong – despite rising mortgage rates. Lucian Cook, of Savills, said: “These will very often be young or growing families looking for more space – needs-based buyers looking to stretch their buying power as far as they can.”
He added: “Those in their 30s and early 40s will often be second steppers, who’ve accumulated some housing equity. This puts them at an advantage to first-time buyers, but they will still be at the sharp end of the increased costs of home ownership. As such, they will be looking for locations that allow them to buy a home to meet their (often growing) needs at a relatively affordable price.”
Andrew Stanyard, of Robert Leech estate agents in Reigate, Surrey, said: “These young buyers underpin the whole market. They are the start of almost every chain and facilitate higher value transactions. They are absolutely fundamental.”
Reigate and Banstead has, according to the research, the highest concentration of thirty-something buyers in England – despite being one of the most expensive locations in the league table, with average prices of just over £282,000.
Mr Stanyard estimated that around 40pc of his buyers fall into this age bracket, and they fall into two broad categories. At the younger end are parentally assisted first-time buyers after a starter flat – a two-bedroom home in the town would cost around £325,000 to £350,000.
There is also a strong ripple of second steppers moving out from the London suburbs. who will spend £425,000 to £450,000 on a three-bedroom house.
Many of these young buyers work in London and naturally find that their wages go much further beyond the M25 – and the commute from nearby Redhill station to London Bridge takes around half an hour. “What they like is being able to drive for 10 minutes in any direction and being in the countryside, but also being on the cusp of London,” said Mr Stanyard.
A concentration of young people means the arrival of the kind of places that young people love to hang out in. “The town centre is vibrant, with lots of big brands and trendy bars,” he added.
Charlotte Evans, 37, first realised that Bromsgrove was on the up five years ago. She was living in Longbridge, Birmingham, but was looking for a location to set up her own business. She saw how the affluent small town, 16 miles from the city centre, was starting to attract increasing numbers of young workers and families fed up of city life (and prices).
Ms Evans’ hair-and-beauty salon, Ginger, has been a huge hit. She and her fiancé Robert Hardy, 33, had been renting a two-bedroom house in Longbridge for £550 per month, but almost four years ago they decided to take the plunge.
With children to consider – Alfie is now 14, and Alice is three – they were tempted by Bromsgrove’s great schools, low crime and peaceful village feel.
The couple bought a three-bedroom house in Stoke Prior and Mr Hardy, a procurement manager, commutes into Birmingham.
Tim Jewkes, branch manager of Oulsnams estate agents, said around half of his thirty-something buyers work in neighbouring cities and are leveraging big city wage packets to buy small houses in towns, which is pushing up prices.
Ms Evans and Mr Hardy paid £210,000 for their house – a “huge stretch” despite the fact that both had good jobs and savings.
“Recently prices in Bromsgrove have gone through the roof,” said Ms Evans. “More people have been cottoning on to the fact that it is a really lovely area. The problem is that although we know we are lucky with what we have got we would really like to move to a four-bedroom house. But we can’t do it.”