Dominic Griffiths, of Connells estate agents in Welwyn Garden City, said: “Half or 60pc of our buyers are coming out of London; pre-pandemic it was half that, if not less.”
He added: “People are saying they just don’t need the transport links anymore because they are only travelling to London a couple of times a week. Now people are happy to be 15 to 20 minutes away from the station.”
More than two thirds of these London movers are first-time buyers who are moving outwards, seeking more space for their money so that they can work from home, said Mr Griffiths. Many are using the government-backed 95pc mortgages.
Competition is fierce – particularly for houses. “Of the last 10 sales, eight had bidding wars,” said Mr Griffiths.
Ian Wilson, of Hunters estate agents in Stevenage, said the pandemic has brought a 20pc jump in Londoners moving out of the capital. In August 2020, the station opened a new platform to increase capacity.
“A lot of people are saying they don’t have to be in London for work anymore and they want more for their money,” said Mr Wilson. “Homes are selling almost immediately. We will have 10 viewings booked in two hours of listing.”
Stevenage was the first “new town” built after the Second World War, but there are Victorian and Edwardian houses in the original old town. Ex-council houses are popular with first-time buyers.
But the full impact of flexible working on commuter belt property markets may be yet to be felt.
Robert Butterworth, of Jackson-Stops estate agents in Woking in Surrey, said: “We have seen a 20pc to 30pc increase in inquiries from Londoners, but we haven’t seen that translate into an equivalent rise in sales.”
He added: “A lot of people are still waiting to see what position their employers will take.”
Woking’s prime houses can be found in Hook Heath and St John’s, neighbourhoods to the southwest of the town centre, as well as the nearby villages of Pirbright, Sutton Green and Knaphill.