THE growing culture of remote working is fuelling a surge of interest in buying homes in Cumbria, with one Carlisle-based estate agent reporting a huge increase in its sales to buyers from outside the county.

Until just a year ago, Hayward Tod Associates would typically sell 25 per cent of the properties that it markets to buyers from outside Cumbria.

But over the last year, as the pandemic has forced many workers to base themselves at home, the firm has seen its out-of-area sales figure climb to more than 50 per cent. The rise in demand is also helping to push up prices.

The firm’s director Adrian Todd said: “Previously, we were typically getting 95 to 96 per cent of the asking price. Now, we’re getting 98 or 99 per cent.”

He said house prices generally had risen by as much as 15 per cent in the last year, partly due to the growing demand from out-of-area buyers.

He said: “It’s over 50 per cent [of sales] now and that’s been consistent since June last year. They’re literally from all over England, parts of Scotland and occasionally from Wales.

“We do get some London buyers and we’ve had more London buyers in the past 12 months but it’s the big money out of London. It’s younger couples and families who are in the fortunate position to have three or four bed semi or town house that’s worth £1m to £1.5m. They can come up here, lose their mortgage, buy a lovely detached period home wherever they want basically, and have money to spare.

“Because of the communications such as the West Coast Main Line and the M6, they can still get to London and other parts of the country. The people with the big money are still staying in London. They may be buying the home counties.

“Some families are looking at lifestyle – perhaps looking for anything with a bit of land where they can put a couple of glamping pods on. Those things are in demand.

“People are making those sort of enquiries of the planners.”

Mr Tod said it was clear remote working – and the opportunities to leave the big urban areas – was a key factor in fuelling the demand for houses in Cumbria.

“They can buy houses for the sort of money that will give them the space they want: the extra reception room for the home office; or a big enough plot that they build because they’ve got the money to do it. They can buy property and make the changes to suit their needs.”

Mr Tod agreed that this new phase of house buying competition, financed by the sale of higher priced homes in bigger urban areas, was making life more difficult for Cumbrian buyers. But he believes the surge is unlikely to continue.

He said: “Prices have gone up.

“We reckon they’ve gone by about 15 per cent in a year – and certainly by 10 per cent on an average property and anything that’s interesting will have gone up by at least 15 per cent.”

With more money to spend that local buyers, the outside buyers can afford to continue bidding on the home they want.

“They keep going and pushing it, competing with other out-of-area buyers who have been on the same property list. We’re getting multiple offers on properties within a very short space of time. Bidding is reasonably common.

“We’ve not seen any real strong positive trading since before the crash in 2007 and 2006. It’s been a long time coming. Prices fell after the crash. Prices dropped quite dramatically – 10, or 15 and in some cases 20 per cent.

“You could say that 10 or 15 per cent is another adjustment from where we had fallen from. Up until a year or so ago we were saying that we’re not back to pre-crash prices yet.

“We’re not seeing second home buyers; they’re people are all stages of their working life. They’re looking for a lifestyle change. Remote working means they don’t need to be sitting in an office in London or Manchester or Birmingham.”