Boom in second homes is next big thing in property

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The Independent Online

Britons could be about to embark on an unprecedented spree of second home-buying over the next 10 years. And the boom is expected to create a rash of unlikely property hotspots in once unfashionable outposts such as Bradford city centre and Southend-on-Sea in Essex.

A report by the Future Foundation forecasts that the market for a country pad or pied-a-terre is set to rise by 24 per cent by 2015 - creating tens of thousands of new second-home owners. Not only will they be predominately younger than the typical late-middle-aged, two-home family of today, they will also be more likely to choose their second dwelling in Britain.

The gap between the number of secondary dwellings within the UK and overseas is set to grow wider - with domestic demand outstripping that for villas and apartments in the traditional playgrounds of France and Spain. Global warming will play its part, making outlying areas of North-west Scotland and the Borders rival Cornwall and Devon in popularity as summer retreats. Fears over flash flooding and forest fires, currently wreaking havoc across much of continental Europe, are also expected to keep people at home, it was claimed.

But while traditional beauty spots will benefit - particularly those in National Parks and along heritage coasts - the burgeoning demand will create new hotspots, the report said. The regenerated centres of Victorian industrial cities, such as Bradford in West Yorkshire, are expected to be much in demand as investment properties.

Birmingham and other popular university cities will benefit from equity-rich parents purchasing on behalf of student offspring. The once-fading resort of Southend is also hotly tipped as an investment area because of its 12 per cent house-price growth, proximity to London and high quality of life.

It is a similar story for the new urban work bases. While central London remains the most popular place for a second home, the gap is being narrowed among the rural set working in cities such as Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool and Newcastle. Many well-off workers are expected to give up the daily commute along crowded motorways and spend the working week living in city centres.

According to Seirian Hanner, who carried out the research on behalf of Direct Line Insurance, the main driver is increasing wealth. It is estimated that Britons will be 73 per cent richer over the next 20 years, she said. "We are becoming better off and people throughout the UK are beginning to realise that they need more than one home to reflect their lifestyle and meet their needs. They will also realise that they can afford it," she said.

The key to the successful holiday home remains its accessibility - another reason why Britain is becoming increasingly popular despite the low-cost airline revolution. "Although Britons are feeling increasingly comfortable in Europe, they still feel more at home within their own culture. They also like to be familiar with the local environment and food and able to speak the language fluently," said Ms Hanner.

The report cited as evidence recent Environment Agency statistics on global warming predicting that the summer weather in Cornwall by 2050 will be closer to that currently experienced in the south of France, thus fuelling demand. Northern Scotland will have a climate akin to that of northern England while cities such as Durham can look forward to less rainfall and seven and a half more full days of sunshine a year by the middle of the century. Another factor is mounting fear over security, with second-homeowners less likely to travel abroad because of terrorism, the report said.

The changing structure of the family will also play its role in boosting the second home market to £53bn - a figure that will be shared among the 405,000 owners expected to own a property in the UK within the next decade. Cohabitating couples, who may already own two properties by the time they get together, will be heavily represented among the 77,000 new members of the domestic holiday-home classes. The number of overseas second homes will grow from 178,000 in 2005 to 249,000 in 10 years. Two thirds will be in Europe.