Rise of the 'greenshifter': City slickers hunt for homes with several acres as big gardens and some land replace swish kitchens as THE must-have

An overwhelming 81 per cent of estate agents questioned by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors say homes with gardens or balconies will be in greater demand over the next two years, along with houses near green spaces. Meanwhile, searches for homes on sale with private open space on property listing site Rightmove increased 42 per cent in May alone, as the housing market returned to business. And even private tenants, usually wanting apartments in city centres, are changing fast, with searches for flats with gardens soaring 84 per cent last month compared to 2019. 'The lockdown has unleashed a wave of passion across the country for all things gardening and particularly for growing fruit and vegetables,' says Chris Harrop, who chaired the judging panel at the Royal Horticultural Society. Estate agents say the most popular demand is for a modest private garden needing relatively low maintenance — an area where a family can picnic or play, including flower beds. While agents' tips for preparing a home for sale used to focus on decluttering and finishing untidy DIY jobs that had been on the to-do list, the biggest factor they emphasise today is to spruce up the front and rear garden. The garden should feel like an extra space for entertaining or relaxing, rather than an expanse of grass,' says Mark Hayward, of the National Association of Estate Agents Propertymark. Buyers have been asking for at least an acre, but not necessarily with the understanding of what's involved in managing that much land,' says Josephine Ashby of John Bray & Partners, an estate agency which sells homes in fashionable north Cornwall, especially Rock. Even just one acre is a hefty commitment — it's about two- thirds the size of a professional football pitch and far larger than most need for growing plants or even lounging in the sun.