Country houses for sale

Property Talk: The happiest places to live in Britain (and what you could afford if you moved there)

When I was going to St Ives, I met... lots and lots of contented people, apparently, as the Cornish seaside town tops this year's list of Britain's happiest places to live.

At last, something positive to shout about in the property market! St Ives has been crowned the happiest place to live in Great Britain.

Rightmove’s annual Happy at Home Index has just landed, providing a welcome distraction after weeks of nail-biting updates on the housing market. It asked more than 21,000 people how they felt about where they live, with areas ranked based on happiness ‘measures’ such as green spaces and local activities. The is worryingly little information that we could see on who was asked, and what, and when, and how (in the summer? last week? via email or phone or in person?).

And in any case, what is happiness? The Rightmove website does a poor job of tackling this question. Admittedly, it’s probably one for professors of philosophy rather than the data crunchers of a property portal, but it would have been great to see the data behind the rankings and a detailed list of the criteria; while Rightmove do share the list of 10 factors, they don’t disuss their weighting other than to say that the fact that ‘having a sense of belonging to your local area is the most important contributor towards happiness’. But that again raises questions more than supplies answers. Does it mean that those who are happiest are those who stay where they already have roots? If so, it seems at odds with a list like this, which implicitly promises that if you move to a ‘happy’ place, you will be happier.

Putting those doubts aside, St Ives overtook Hexham to grab this year’s top spot, with residents scoring it highly for community spirit, the sense of belonging and how comfortable they felt. It turns out the two towns have alternated for first place since 2019; this year, though, Hexham, has slid down to 4th spot. Perhaps people there didn’t enjoy the very hot summer.

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But back to St Ives. The quintessentially Cornish town has got plenty to boast about: award-winning beaches, scenic coastal walks, culture (time to namedrop Tate St Ives) and a pretty harbour. Even Father Christmas arrives on the lifeboat, according to Paul Le Bas, sales business development manager at Millerson in St Ives.

And who wouldn’t be happy if they had the best part of three-quarters of a million pounds to splash on a tastefully-decorated two-bedroom flat overlooking the beach?

Two-bed flat in St Ives, Cornwall — £699,950 via Millerson

Since the pandemic started, buyer demand has ‘greatly’ outstripped the number of homes for sale in many coastal areas like St Ives, the portal says. And even though this has eased during 2022, buyer enquiries in Cornwall are still 9% up on 2019.

It’s no surprise then that prices have climbed too. The average asking price of a home in St Ives now stands at £523,731. That’s nearly £30,900 higher than last year (when it was £492,870) — and almost £156,800 more than the current national average asking price of £366,999. The bottom line is that buying property here means that you’re going to have to pay a serious amount of money — though you’ll also have some wonderful homes to choose from.

This 11-bedroom home in St Ives is for sale via Millerson at £1.5m

Interestingly, the town that’s hot on the heels of St Ives in the happiness ranking sits at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to house prices.

Homes in Galashiels, which came in second place, have an average asking price of (drumroll, please): £153,546. At that price point, you could buy this three-bedroom terraced house on the eastern fringes of the Scottish Borders town. It’s the first time an area from Scotland has been ranked in the top three since 2016.

Galashiels’s motto, incidentally, is ‘soor plooms’ (sour plums), reports The Herald; seems like the plums wouldn’t be too sour for whoever ends up living in this glorious house though…

Glenmayne, near Galashiels, for sale at £3.75m via Knight Frank.

Looking at the overall top 20, Scotland, the south west and Wales also feature frequently. So if you want to look on the bright side of life, perhaps it is time to put down roots in one of those regions.

Top 10 happiest places in Britain




Average Asking Price

1 St Ives South West £523,731
2 Galashiels Scotland £153,546
3 Woodbridge East of England £481,978
4 Hexham North East £262,265
5 Perth Scotland £179,410
6 Harrogate Yorkshire and The Humber £381,124
7 Anglesey Wales £324,048
8 Bury St Edmunds East of England £334,160
9 Stirling Scotland £197,075
10 Cirencester South West £382,065

Source: Rightmove

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