Desire for 30-Minute Commute Prompts Return of Hybrid Workers to London Homes

Research from global real estate advisor, CBRE, has revealed there was a shift in London residential activity in 2022, with consumers opting for a return to urban locations. This trend supports the results of CBRE’s global “Live, Work, Shop” survey that found 74% of hybrid workers in the UK would prefer to live within a 30-minute commute of their workplace, and is a reversal of the trend seen throughout the pandemic, which saw increased migration to the suburbs. 

In 2021, people sought homes outside of the 30-minute commute zone, with households willing to accept longer but less frequent commutes. As a result, areas with strong connectivity into London such as St Albans, High Wycombe and Woking were among those which saw the biggest increase in residential sales.

However, CBRE’s research indicates that in 2022, this trend started to reverse, evidenced by a reduction in the proportion of sales outside of a 30-minute commute of central London.

According to the “Live, Work, Shop” report, commute time to work was named as the most important factor when considering a new job, after salary, in turn driving a preference for properties in central areas.

Despite the shift in preference, only 57% of those surveyed presently live within a desired 30-minute commute zone of their workplace, compared to the 64% who are currently working in a hybrid pattern and the 72% who identified as wanting to work in a hybrid pattern.

CBRE’s Managing Director, UK Residential, Luke Mills, said this figure reflects households that may be restricted by higher property prices in central areas, as well as commuters moving to more remote locations during lockdowns.  

The preference for shorter commute times, along with the return of the city centre ‘buzz’ in the absence of lockdowns has seen a return in demand for urban locations. As a result, 2022 saw the proportion of residential transactions outside of the 30-minute commute zone fall back towards the long-term average, as buyers opt for more central locations. Even with the new norm of hybrid working, the exodus from city centres has not been permanent and housing market activity indicates hybrid workers are placing greater value on shorter commute times.

Luke Mills, Managing Director, UK Residential, CBRE