Despite higher average prices, property values in all rural areas, on average, have increased slightly more slowly than in urban areas over the past decade as whole; 36% against 40%.
House price increases cause challenges for those looking to purchase rural property, especially first-time buyers, as housing affordability concerns have grown in the last decade. Over the past year, the value of the average countryside home has gone up by 2%, but the urban equivalent increase is only 1%. At the extreme end of the scale, Chiltern in Buckinghamshire has seen house prices go up by £1107 per month over the past ten years; that’s an increase of over £13,000 every year, or equivalent to 37% of the national average full-time gross annual wage.
Rising property values have made rural housing less accessible, as in 2012 only one in 17 (five in total) rural Local Authority Districts were deemed affordable. Areas are classified as unaffordable if the house price to earnings ratio is above the historical average of 4.0. The least affordable area is Tandridge in Surrey, where the price of a house is 8.4 times greater than the local average annual income – Cotswold (8.1) came in a close second. Hambleton in North Yorkshire (7.4) is the only area outside the south amongst the ten least affordable.
At £427,647, the highest average property price in rural Britain is found in Chiltern; over four times higher than the lowest – East Ayrshire with an average price of £100,119.
First-time buyers account for just over a third (35%) of all mortgage financed purchases in rural areas – far fewer than in urban areas where they account for nearly half.
Due to the high level of property prices, getting on the rural property ladder is at its most challenging for first-time buyers in southern England. While first time buyers only account for only about a quarter of all purchases in Wealden in East Sussex, East Devon and East Hertforsdhire, they account for over half in East Ayrshire, St Edmundsbury in Suffolk, Pendle and Copeland.
Social housing provision is typically lower in rural areas of England and Wales, with 12% of the housing stock accounted for by social housing compared with 19% in urban areas.
There are six areas – five of which are in Wales – where social housing accounts for 5% or less of total housing stock, and with nearly a quarter of total properties represented (23%), East Ayrshire has the highest level of social housing in rural Britain.
Martin Ellis, housing economist at Halifax, said: "Country living is an aspiration for many Britons: the fresh air; the scenery; the slower pace; it all adds to the attraction – but this has its drawbacks. For many of those tempted, the high prices put rural homes out of their reach. First-time buyers in particular are affected by high rural property prices, and consequently they account for a far smaller proportion of homebuyers than they do in urban areas.
"The traditional British country pile has become less affordable, and it is proving more and more difficult to find fruitful results when foraging for houses in the country."
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