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From the people who move you: Ed Brassey

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The so-called ‘escape to the countryside’ has been well documented with the pandemic leading many city dwellers to search for bigger homes and gardens in the countryside. While it might not be for everyone, my experience of being fortunate enough to live in the midst of rolling Northamptonshire countryside has definitely shown me the benefits of rural living. And over the past 18 months I am sure my wife and my teenage children would agree. Here I want to tell you what I have experienced and learnt since COVID struck and why this part of the country has so much to offer.

In 2010 we decided that, after 28 years of living and working in London, it was time to leave the city and head back to my countryside roots to raise our young family. I now run the Strutt & Parker Market Harborough office which covers great stretches of Rutland, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire, and having been in the role for a number of years now, I have come to know the local markets and market towns like the back of my hand.

Prior to COVID, it wasn't unusual to see buyers from the capital looking to move here because of the thriving market towns, excellent schools and good connections back to London - commuting is easy with Kings Cross roughly 45 minutes away on the train. Since the onset of the pandemic, we have seen these types of buyers in droves, all looking for that idyllic house and a piece of land. Many people who might have been planning a move in a few years took their experiences of lockdown and thought that now is the time to do it.

While estate agents were some of the first back to the office, like many others we still spent lots of time working as a team remotely. Overnight, my team had to adapt to the new ways of working and looking back I am still incredibly impressed by the work that we were able to do. We've got a really good team here, it's small, but they are really experienced and have all supported one another incredibly well. The ability to rely on each other when we need to has been a real strength. And while technology does enable us to work efficiently remotely, it will never be able to replace the experience of being in the same office together as a team.

In thinking about what it was like over lockdown with my family, we were really lucky to have been isolating in the middle of nowhere. We live in an historic manor house on a small estate where we rent out the surrounding fields. Yes, we might not have had the facilities that people in town might have had on their doorstep, but what we did have was our own space and the ability to walk the land with our two badly behaved “Norfolk Russells”. It might sound like a simple pleasure, but being able to take a breather from my desk, on my own or as a family, and go for a walk made such a difference to my day.

And looking at the latest chapter of our Housing Futures survey, which looks into what drives and motivates our buyers, it doesn't really surprise me that being more ecologically minded now sits highly on wish lists. Historically, I think renovation projects, and anything with work needed, attracts people because they think they will get a decent home and a good spot but also, they can add value to it. And as part of that, people are now looking to make their homes more environmentally friendly, while putting their own stamp on what it looks like.

Yes, it can be harder to put things like air source heat pumps into an existing property, but it is being done as people know that down the line it will save them money as well as improving their environmental credentials. And while the new trend of working from home means that buyers are now extremely keen on properties with home offices, good internet connectivity and annexes to work from, people might start looking at the cost of their energy bills and think a little more about the impact that extra time at home is having on the environment. I wonder if this might drive people to think about installing more energy efficient solutions in their homes, and whether working from home will be the catalyst needed for more sustainable home improvements.

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