The Great Wealth Escape: one in three high-value homebuyers venture beyond London

Search AcumenBy Legal Futures Associate Search Acumen

  • 23% of the 1,000 most expensive homes to change hands in England and Wales last year were located outside Greater London, up from 13% in 2018
  • Data for 2022 so far indicates 34% of high-value homes are situated outside the capital
  • Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Hampshire enjoy a rising share of high-value deals
  • Big-budget buyers turning their backs on Westminster, Lambeth and Hammersmith and Fulham

New analysis by Search Acumen, the property data and technology provider, shows one in three of the biggest spending homeowners in England and Wales are buying outside of London as the pandemic continues to reshape housing market trends.

Data for 2022 to date from HM Land Registry shows 34% of the 1,000 highest value residential property purchases so far this year are located outside of Greater London. This is up from 13% just four years ago for 2018.

Search Acumen’s analysis suggests the pandemic and its impact on buyer behaviour, investment appetite and lifestyle trends have accelerated the existing trend of high-value homes being purchased in greater numbers outside the M25. In 2019, prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, 15% of the 1,000 most costly homes to change hands across England and Wales were located outside of London, up two percentage points from 13% in 2018.

During 2020 with social distancing restrictions and changing work habits prompting a ‘race for space’ away from the City, almost one in five (19%) of the 1,000 most expensive house purchases took place beyond Greater London.

By 2021, nearly one in four (23%) high-value homebuyers were looking beyond the capital to secure a new property, with even more buyers choosing that option this year. The trend is likely to be influenced by the shutdown of the international market, which has impacted access to and appetite for prime and super-prime properties in central London.


Table one: Location of top 1,000 high-value home purchases across England and Wales

 20182019202020212022 YTD
Outside Greater London13%15%19%23%34%
Within Greater London87%85%81%77%66%

Source: Search Acumen analysis of HM Land Registry price paid data, August 2022


Search Acumen’s analysis highlights some of the biggest growth areas for high-value property purchases across England and Wales in recent years. For example:

  • Surrey accounted for 43 of the 1,000 most expensive house purchases in 2018, rising to 80 in 2021 (86%+)
  • Buckinghamshire was home to 10 of the 1,000 most costly homes to change hands in 2018, a figure that had doubled to reach 20 by 2021 (100%+)
  • Hertfordshire has already recorded more than twice as many transactions in the top 1,000 this year than it did in 2018 (28 vs. 13) (+115%)
  • While Hampshire has recorded more than four times as many (26 vs. 6) (+333%)

In contrast, there are signs that the wealthiest buyers are falling out of love with traditional high-value areas and the desirable postcodes of the pre-pandemic era:

  • The City of Westminster was home to 249 of the 1,000 most expensive residential purchases in 2018, but only 186 in 2021 (-25%)
  • Hammersmith and Fulham accounted for 23 high-value house purchases in 2021, down from 53 in 2018 (-57%)
  • Lambeth boasted just five high-value purchases last year compared with 18 in 2018 (-72%)

The most expensive transaction outside Greater London within the last five years happened in 2021, for the 216-acre Westbrook Estate in West Surrey. It was listed at the time with a guide price of £20 million but sold for a staggering £24.6 million; an illustration of both the high demand country market conditions and the rarity of the sale.

However, based on prices paid for individual properties over the last five years, Greater London continues to top the charges for big spenders. Properties on Ashburton Place, Grosvenor Square, Tite Street and Phillimore Gardens in Prime Central London (PCL) all feature prominently in the top 20 most expensive residential properties purchased since 2018.

Despite their increasing willingness to look beyond central London, Search Acumen’s research reveals that the average price paid by the buyers of the 1,000 most costly homes each year has increased steadily from 2018 to 2021.

The average buyer of a high-value home in 2018 parted with £5.39m on average to own a prime property but forked out £6.40m in 2021: an increase of 17%. In contrast, this year’s 1,000 most expensive residential purchases have averaged just £3.40m.

However, this year’s figure may be impacted by ongoing delays in transactions being registered with HM Land Registry as the conveyancing market continues to grapple with a post-pandemic backlog of administration.


Table two: Average price of the top 1,000 high-value home purchases across England and Wales

 20182019202020212022 YTD
Average price£5,393,258£5,749,080£5,669,973£6,30304,694£3,395,735
Within Greater London87%85%81%77%66%

Source: Search Acumen analysis of HM Land Registry price paid data, August 2022


Andy Sommerville, Director of Search Acumen, commented:

 “The days of London being the default location of choice for high-value house purchases are increasingly behind us as big spending homebuyers look to invest their time and money in locations beyond the capital.

“With eye-watering sums of money changing hands in the super prime property market, legal advisers need real-time access to robust systems and essential data to keep transactions running on schedule and forewarn their clients of any potential sticking points.

“In this age of record house prices and widespread digitisation across everyday life, it doesn’t matter what value home you’re buying; every would-be homebuyer has a right to expect clarity and insight from their conveyancers and legal advisers.

“For their part, legal advisers have every right to expect access to the best systems and timely data to perform their roles effectively without drowning in admin or being subject to the delays and confusion that have plagued the transaction process for years.

“Search Acumen’s suite of residential conveyancing tools knits this process together seamlessly, saving hours of processing time and averting the risk of weeks, if not months, of delays by offering up information at the earliest possible opportunity. The tools exist to make digital the default setting from here on.”


Associate News is provided by Legal Futures Associates.
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