UK second homes surge to record high of 495,000

Saleha Riaz
·2-min read
The Mousehole gift shop in the village center, Mousehole, Cornwall, England, UK. (Photo by: Andrew Michael/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
The Mousehole gift shop in the village center, Mousehole, Cornwall, England, UK. Cornwall is a hotspot for second homes in England. Photo: Andrew Michael/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The number of second homes in the UK hit a record high before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

Property management company Houst said analysis of Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data showed secondary homes — either holiday homes or rental properties — hit a new high in 2018/2019, the most recent period data is available for.

The number of second homes rose by 30% to 495,000, up from 382,000 in 2013/14. Almost all (451,000) were located in England.

“Rising incomes, property’s continued draw as an asset class due to steadily rising house prices, and the shift to more flexible and remote working are likely to have been the main reasons behind the rise in second home ownership over the period,” Houst said.

The company said a reduction in the value of the pound since the 2016 Brexit referendum may have played a part by making it cheaper to buy property in the UK rather than elsewhere in the world. The growth of rental platforms such as Airbnb also contibuted.

“The likes of Airbnb and other platforms have revolutionised second home ownership and have certainly been one of the main driving forces behind second home ownership," said Houst cofounder Tom Jones. "Owners are now able to generate income from their second home extremely easily, almost all year round.”

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The data does not cover the pandemic. The report speculated that some people may have sold their second properties to boost cash reserves because of reduced incomes and job opportunities.

Wealthier and older members of the workforce may have chosen to retire early, moving into second homes in the country and selling primary residences in or near cities. Office workers may have chosen to do the same thanks to the rise in remote working.

“The restrictions on travel over the past year will have seen many second home owners debate the next steps,” said Jones.

“Those that decide to continue letting properties - rather than selling or moving into them on a more permanent basis - will need to ensure they’re squeezing every pound out of their property.”

Last month, the government announced it will legislate to tighten tax rules for second property owners, meaning they can only register for business rates if their properties are genuine holiday lets.

Many holiday lets in England are liable to pay business rates, rather than council tax, when an owner declares that they intend to let their property in the next year. They may be able to claim rates relief of up to 100%.

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