Escape to the country

A shortage of suitable property may have driven up urban prices over the past few years but a mass exodus from towns across the UK is likely to do the same for country homes.

New research shows that more than a quarter of metropolitan househunters are trying to find properties well away from larger urban areas.

Some 27% of would-be buyers are trying to get away from City pollution and noise to find some rural calm, according to the survey by

The rush for country living is not driven by people selling big family houses and downshifting but often by professionals who plan to work from home or who are prepared to commute longer distances to get a larger home in a more affordable part of the country.

Jim Buckle, managing director of, said people in Birmingham and London are the keenest to flee to the countryside.

Some 12% of Brummies want to move out of the City and 10.4% of Londoners want to do so. Glasgow is a not-too-distant third, with 8.3% of househunters looking to move out into green spaces well away from the city.

‘The greenshifters have reached the stage in life where they no longer want the stress of city living. These are wealthier households, where careers are well-established, and for whom quality of life and open space are more important than nightclubs and 15 different types of latte on every street corner,’ added Buckle.

The average age of greenshifters is 40 and the age band does not range much below 30 since twentysomethings are too busy building their careers to consider moving far.

Although the rural idyll remains attractive to many urbanites, it does not always prove the dream location that many think.

Lack of public transport, the persistent unavailability of broadband and country smells continue to top the list of complaints when ex-urbanites are asked about their new surroundings.

Other grumbles can be more flimsy, including ‘noisy bell ringers’ and even ‘muddy roads’.

Many young people in apparently idyllic rural areas are in fact looking to leave. The West Country, for example emerges as a tough place for young people to start their careers.

Sky-high house prices, thanks to the arrival of greenshifters from the cities and the lack of work is pushing many young househunters out of the region.

Almost a quarter (23%) of househunters who live in the West Country are looking to move more than 100 miles, escaping the region altogether.

According to Buckle, priorities simply change as people get older: ‘There is a natural cycle of renewal. Young people are attracted to the large urban areas to get a foot on the career ladder and to enjoy the buzz of a big city. They naturally look to buy their first home there too. Greenshifting comes later when priorities change and quality of life becomes more important.’

This article first appeared on This is Money on 18 October 2004.