OPINION: The North Devon housing market boom - Simon Smith

The beautiful North Devon coast is one of the biggest draws for people moving to the area

The beautiful North Devon coast is one of the biggest draws for people moving to the area - Credit: Andrew Bone

Welcome readers, to the first property column in the new look North Devon Gazette, which I hope will inform, entertain, educate and stimulate your thoughts about one of the most fundamental things that influences the way in which we experience our lives – our homes. 

Reflecting upon that most dreaded of ancient curses ‘May you live in interesting times’, these certainly are interesting times, both for property generally and, more specifically, in our wonderful corner of the world, North Devon. 

Taking the bigger picture first, the last two years have seen a boom in the housing market that is unprecedented in most folks living memory, triggered by a perfect storm of a market which, having been dogged by Brexit uncertainty following the 2016 vote, shrugged off its concerns in the ‘Get Brexit Done’ aftermath of the 2019 general election, then followed closely by the previously unimaginable situation of the entire population being locked in their homes for months and emerging, in the majority of cases, with a deep desire to go and live somewhere else! 

Simon Smith, Director of John Smale & Co Estate Agents

Simon Smith, Director of John Smale & Co Estate Agents - Credit: Hayley Bray Photography Ltd

These two factors alone would have driven the housing market to new heights but the decision by government to add a tax incentive to move home added fuel to a fire that was already burning hotly, and which shows no sign of receding any time soon. 

Added to this, the soaring cost of building materials, where timber is roughly equivalent to platinum in pounds per kilogram, have meant that substantially extending or refurbishing an existing property is now more expensive than selling and buying elsewhere, adding to the appetite for moving. 

In our local market we have seen all of the above factors, further amplified by the effects of the pandemic. 

North Devon has always held a strong appeal for buyers moving from away, the combination of our moors, rolling countryside, stunning coastline and, equally importantly, the relatively undeveloped, unchanged and timeless aspects of life here have all conspired to draw buyers along the link road in search of a lifestyle and a dream. 

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The barrier to this movement, for many years, was the lack of career opportunities and the change to home working, in my view, has had a bigger impact on buyers moving to North Devon recently than just the desire to escape any future urban lockdowns. 

I say this because the desire to move to our part of the world has always been there but what has fundamentally changed is that people who thought that their careers would always tie them to a physical location close to a major city have found that they have been ‘let off the leash’ and that their physical location is no longer a necessity. Something that many major employers, keen to reduce rents on city centre office blocks, have wholeheartedly embraced! 

One of the most used terms on internet property searches currently is ‘home office’ and, unless these people are wanting to email Priti Patel, tells you all you need to know about the factors powering the stampede to North Devon! 

Where will it all end? With continued strong house price growth? With a glut of rural properties coming to the market next spring after lots of ex-city dwellers find that a winter in the countryside is not all Cider With Rosie? 

With nose to tail traffic along the link road as more and more people, having reassessed their lives after covid, follow their dream along the A361? Who knows? 

Personally, I think the fundamentals of our market – a physically small area with a huge inflow of demand – remains too strong for anything significant to affect it, whatever happens globally. 

The only certainty is that we will, for the foreseeable future, continue to live in interesting times.

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