International property consultant Knight Frank says the UK's Country House market finished the year as it began after the market reopened in May 2020, with high-value properties proving to be the strongest performer during the fourth quarter.
In a year dominated by the escape to the country trend, properties valued at more than £5m saw the strongest growth in the three months to December, rising 5.1%. This pushed the annual rate of growth to 7.9% in that price bracket.
Overall, the index recorded an increase of 1.7% in the three months to December. This took the annual price change during 2020 to 4%, which was the best performance for more than six years.
Despite the impact of an eight-week lockdown, the number of offers accepted finished the year 35% ahead of the five-year average.
Exchanges had also exceeded last year's total by 3% by mid-December. Around 30% of the offers accepted are still to exchange, which means transactional activity should remain high into 2021.
Higher-value properties have performed strongly in 2020 due to the combination of growing demand for outdoor space and buyers being in a financial position to act more swiftly. The pandemic has also been a catalyst for buyers and sellers to bring plans forward. Price growth for higher-value properties has also been weaker than the wider market in recent years due to a series of tax changes, which provided greater scope for rises.
The second national lockdown in the autumn failed to halt the market's momentum, with new prospective buyers registering with the country business up 42% versus the five-year average in November and, underlining how the market's seasonality has been diminished this year, instructions for sale 22% ahead of the five-year average in November.
Seven of the ten most viewed locations were outside of London during the second national lockdown, underlining that demand for country living remains strong and suggesting that if the escape to the country trend begins to unwind as the roll-out of vaccines gathers pace, it will only do so gradually.