Tenant mobility: Why are people moving now?

The motivations people have for moving to a new home have shifted this year. The lockdown, changes in working environment and the looming threat of further restrictions this winter have mobilised tenants to look for more space and a greater sense of community. Data from our HomeSwapper system that caters to tenants in social housing has correlated with reports from the private sector; priorities have changed.

What the UK desires is being shaped by a life defined by the four walls we live in. Half of renters looking to move have said that the events of 2020 have impacted and changed the reasons they have for moving. Gardens and outdoor space – both private and public – have gained top priority, with more space and the ability to have pets in the home growing in popularity.

Rightmove has reported that searches have doubled for homes in towns and villages with a population of less than 11,000. Our findings from HomeSwapper have been similar, with required features and desired locations changing over the past months. Within social housing, tenants may find it more difficult to access properties that suit each of their shifting needs. Access to HomeSwapper can empower tenants to find the home that improves quality of life in this uncertain time.

What have we learnt from HomeSwapper?

The top 5 features that HomeSwapper tenant users, known as swappers, want from their new home hasn’t changed but the order of their importance has. Unsurprisingly, having a garden is now the prime desirable feature for a new home.

HomeSwapper Account Director, Eddy Irvine has been gathering insights on motivations for moving since March. “From the landlord’s point of view, it was quieter because they’re not doing as many exchanges. Yet, what we’ve found throughout COVID-19 was tenants were more active; swappers were more active in updating their photographs, changing their preferences and speaking to each other.” Part of the reason for this activity could be the result of many of us having more time on our hands across this period, however we can also see this data as an indication of shifting preferences for what was required in a new home.

From cityscape to countryside

The areas that those using HomeSwapper are looking to move to have changed as well. These now stand as:

  1. Essex
  2. Hertfordshire
  3. Kent
  4. Hampshire
  5. Surrey
  6. West Sussex
  7. Cornwall
  8. Birmingham
  9. Devon
  10. Oxfordshire

The top five locations indicate that those using HomeSwapper to move have been desiring a move out of the city centre whilst still staying within the commuter belt of the capital. Private property sector data supports this trend. Hamptons International estate agent found that 63% of properties bought in Sevenoaks, Kent and Tandridge, Surrey were by Londoners.

Eddy notes that the new additions to this list of “Cornwall and Devon are interesting. You’d expect the others in the list because of the number of swappers in those areas, but now people want to move to the seaside!” Research across this period has shown people want more space, with 26% wanting to move to the seaside and 23% now considering the peace and quiet of the countryside.

Across the media, anecdotal evidence suggests movers seek out the community spirit of the countryside and smaller towns, however at risk of disillusioning movers, evidence suggests that this is just ideological. Tests carried out across the UK found that perhaps surprisingly, the helpfulness of strangers didn’t differ from urban to rural settings.

The ‘Work from Home’ shift

As work for many became easier and safer to execute at home, many of us in that position will have to examine what home means and how we can adjust it to make home working viable. For some, that may mean changing location entirely. Before lockdown it was estimated that 1.7million of us worked from home; in April that jumped to 50% of workers and for many of us that setup is likely going to remain in one form or another. But homes are not the entire stories; evidence is suggesting that people are also looking to work outside of the city, a group dubbed ‘reverse commuters’.

Space both inside and outside of the house is becoming a premium. For social housing tenants, housing policies like The Bedroom Tax and the fact that the UK has the smallest requirements for a dwelling space in Europe may forecast difficult years ahead. In 2016, MPS rejected legislation that would require landlords to make their properties ”fit for human habitation”. Seen through the most objective of eyes, it might seem remiss that private landlords are not subject to the same regulations, rent controls and duty of care that housing associations and local authorities shoulder.

Some local authorities are intervening. Cornwall Council research revealed that 50% of homes in Cornwall did not meet the ’decent home’ standard, compared to 30% nationally. They already run a Responsible Landlord Scheme, but are now considering a licence for landlords to ensure responsible property management. Taking these actions can improve the health and wellbeing of families and individuals, as well as children and young people’s outcomes.

“A lack of space affects quality of life. As well as simply allowing people to have a comfortable standard of living, additional space can also reduce stress by allowing members of the same household to engage in different activities at the same time, and ease feelings of claustrophobia experienced in small spaces.”

Cambridge University

What should the future look like?

Social housing will be key to a fair recovery that leaves nobody behind. Looking forward, these trends will inform the services, infrastructure and housing policies that should be delivered next. Recommendations from the National Housing Federation believe £10bn a year needs to be spent on social housing, enough to build 90,000 homes.

Moving forward, continuing to activate HomeSwapper across a robust and growing social housing network in the UK would allow for social housing residents’ control over tenant mobility, equal to that of private renters – without the possible dangers and pitfalls of a lack of social rents and protections.

MRI Software build a number of solutions for the social housing sector, including HomeSwapper. If you would like to know more about what we do, please drop an email to socialhousing@mrisoftware.com

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