The property market is blooming – gardens are now top of homebuyers’ wishlists

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Forget trendy kitchen-diners and en-suite bedrooms – the new must have for people buying their first home is a garden, according to research published today.

It would appear that the frustrations of three lockdowns have catapulted gardens and outdoor spaces to the top of wish lists for today’s homebuyers.

Access to outdoor spaces has been increasingly valued during the pandemic alongside an increasing desire to connect with nature which was reflected in the findings of the survey of over 200 first-time buyers by The Cumberland.

A whopping 85 per cent said having a garden was important to them. 

Back in 2018, research by property company Savills made little mention of gardens – it was all about the living space. 

And some respondents in The Cumberland’s survey of first time buyers even said that they worked on the garden before they started on any other house project – confirmation indeed that creating somewhere where they could get away from everything and relax was a priority.

Broadcaster, author and former principal chairman of BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time, Eric Robson OBE, said it was no surprise that gardens were high on people’s list of priorities. 

He said that having access to outdoor space of your own had a positive impact on mental health, which has been highlighted over the last eighteen months.

Eric Robson, OBE said: “We’ve seen this put into sharp focus by the pandemic and the lockdowns, that here is a bit of precious space for people who, if they didn’t have a garden, would be hemmed in. 

“It is increasingly acknowledged that gardens have great benefits for mental health, for keeping people on the straight and narrow at difficult times. I’m sure that is one of the reasons that the number has gone up. 

“Gardening has had a reputation in the past of being for older people, rather a fuddy duddy activity. Increasingly I was finding on Gardeners Question Time the age profile of the audience was shifting, more younger people were getting into gardening. People were getting into gardening at an earlier stage in their lives.” 

Rebecca McAleavey, one of the respondents to the survey, said: “A garden was an essential point for us when we were looking to buy our new home. It gives us personal space to relax, and an area for our dogs to play.”

Marcus Eyles, Horticultural Director for Dobbies Garden Centres, said: “Gardening and being in nature has many positive benefits for people of all ages – it impacts on our physical, emotional and mental health. The combination of the fresh air, physical exercise with productive results, and the opportunity to spend time in a space you have created, means having a garden is important to more people than ever before, including first-time-buyers.

 “We have seen a real trend for the ‘fifth room’ – a blurring between the inside and outside, giving people who are spending more time at home, more space to enjoy. Not only that, but we are seeing an increase in people growing their own fruit and veg, as well as people wanting to use sustainable products, such as peat-free compost, to care for the environment and wildlife.”

The survey also underlined how much first-time buyers enjoyed taking control of their own living space for the first time. The living room was the first interior design project tackled by 41 per cent of respondents after they got their keys. Next in line was the main bedroom, with the kitchen and bathroom a little further down the list.

Buying that first home will always be a serious prospect – and it all starts with saving for a deposit.

Of those surveyed, 40 per cent took less than a year to save what they needed, while 51 per cent of respondents had help from family to get the deposit together. 

A lucky 25 per cent said they didn’t need to cut back on their spending to get the cash together, though others minimised their holidays, nights out and takeaways to do so.

Jack Green, The Cumberland’s area manager for mortgages, said the survey busted some myths around buying a first home. He added: “We’re thrilled that so many people got involved with the survey – and the results really are an interesting read.

“It’s great to find out that a third of those who took part in our survey thought buying their first home was easier than they had expected. Although it’s no surprise that being in a chain and having initial offers rejected were two things first time buyers found challenging.

“Understandably, 25 per cent said their biggest source of support came from family, but we were delighted to discover that 38 per cent said their mortgage advisor and lender were hugely helpful. That’s what we’re here for – we want to give advice from the moment someone is planning a purchase, through from saving for a deposit, and right up until the day they have their keys in their hand.”

Aside from the practicalities of working with professionals, particularly where finances and mortgages are concerned, many buyers acknowledged that emotion is always going to play a part.

One of the soundest pieces of advice from a buyer was: “Buy with your heart, check with your head.” 

And there was one fabulous tip which is sure to make many a first time buyer smile: “If you can imagine the property covered in Christmas lights, it’s the right home for you.”

The Great First Time Buyer Survey was carried out by The Cumberland, the tenth biggest building society in the UK. 218 responses were recorded when the survey ran online between June and July 2021.

To view all of the survey results, visit The Cumberland’s website. 

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