Opinion: Homeowners are making smart use of property wealth

Conwy Castle and harbor at ebb-tide

Conwy Castle and harbor at ebb-tide, which is now occupied by tourists rather than armies - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

My wife and I recently spent a few days on the coast of North Wales, basing ourselves in a small seafront hotel in Llandudno overlooking the town’s magnificently broad esplanade and the Irish Sea. The striking, curved sweep of well-maintained Victorian buildings, almost all hotels, added a sense of grandeur enhanced by glinting autumn sunshine.

On our second day, we walked the few miles along the riverbank to Conwy where, in 1172, Cistercian monks marked out the foundations for Aberconwy Abbey. Little more than a century later Edward I defeated the Welsh before building the most imposing castle imaginable and painting it brilliant white.

The castle’s white paint has long since disappeared, although traces of the Abbey remain on the approach to St Mary’s church, which was built in 1284. Not only does the church boast an extraordinary interior, but the most famous grave in its churchyard is also associated with a poem called 'We Are Seven' written by William Wordsworth.

Invariably, when wandering around comparatively small towns, it doesn’t take too long before you’re poking your head into an estate agent’s window to get a feel for local property values. Yes, I know you can get the information on your phone, but comparing an array of well lit, prominently displayed photographs and prices is considerably more enjoyable.

I spoke with one helpful estate agent in Llandudno who said that over the past 18 months a combination of ‘working from home’ (WFH) and an outright ban on overseas travel had had a “remarkable” impact upon the local property market. In some areas of Conwy, prices had risen by an astonishing 88% since the start of lockdown.

“Today’s prospective buyers want location, location, space,” she added.

It’s easy to see why this beautiful coast has become so popular with second home buyers. In addition to Llandudno and Conwy, Anglesey is a 30-minute drive away, with Caernarvon (home to another imposing Edward I castle) further south. Did I mention Snowdonia?

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The overwhelming majority of second home buyers in North Wales and elsewhere are aged 60 and above.

No great surprise there – after all, we’re talking about society’s wealthiest cohort. According to the Office for National Statistics, average net property wealth for people aged 55–64 is £255,000. For those aged over 65, the figure is £272,000.