It has quaint cobbled streets, an ancient abbey, and a thriving arts scene. And once again, the Northumberland market town of Hexham has been crowned the happiest place to live in Britain, regaining the top spot which it last held back in 2019.
Our annual Happy at Home Index reveals that residents of historic Hexham are the happiest, based on factors including the friendliness of their neighbours, its sense of belonging, the quality of the town’s local amenities, and its access to open space.
“Last year redefined the importance and role of our home and local community in our lives, and this has carried on into this year, even as wider society has started to open up again,” said our property expert Tim Bannister.
Happiness in Hexham
Hexham also has good-value properties. The average asking price of a home is £297,088, up 6% on last year (£280,128), but is still significantly lower than the current national average asking price of £342,401.
Ailsa Mather, director at Andrew Coulson estate agents, said Hexham has always been popular for its great transport links to Newcastle and Carlisle, open space, and thriving café culture, but had become even more so during the pandemic.
“The last 12 months in the market have been phenomenal. People have re-evaluated what they want out of their lives, moving closer to family, and moving from the city to the countryside. Over 38% of our sales in the last 12 months have been from people south of Birmingham, as more people now have the opportunity to work from home, and don’t need to be in the city five days a week,” she said.
Local Mayor Derek Kennedy described Hexham as a “small town with great history”, which also has big ambitions to progress sustainable development.
“There is a wonderful community spirit, people are very supportive of one another. There are lots of community interest groups which gets people working for the greater good,” he added.
Top 20 Happiest Places to Live 2021
Second place overall in this year’s Happy at Home index is the affluent riverside London borough of Richmond upon Thames, which for the seventh consecutive year has also taken the top spot as the happiest place to live in London. Like Hexham, it has pretty period houses, plus there are the wilds of Richmond Park to explore. However, the average asking price here is a lot higher and has now reached almost £1.2 million.
The third spot has been taken by the popular spa town of Harrogate in North Yorkshire, while Hove in East Sussex, Brighton’s quieter, calmer seaside neighbour, takes the fourth position. Llandrindod Wells in Powys, Wales, was named fifth place in our study.
Take a look at the top 20 spots below:
|Place||Average asking price||Average asking rent (PCM)|
|1. Hexham, North East||£297,088||£842|
|2. Richmond upon Thames, Greater London||£1,196,892||£3,235|
|3. Harrogate, Yorks & Humber||£353,624||£1,163|
|4. Hove, South East||£525,906||£1,879|
|5. Llandrindod Wells, Wales||£193,601||£445|
|6. Stirling, Scotland||£191,226||£877|
|7. Monmouth, Wales||£312,649||£929|
|8. St. Ives, South West||£494,393||£1,150|
|9. Anglesey, Wales||£278,391||£776|
|10, Leamington Spa, West Midlands||£350,981||£1,203|
|11. Perth, Scotland||£167,160||£679|
|12. Hitchin, East of England||£491,223||£1,392|
|13. Woodbridge, East of England||£427,542||£1,129|
|14. Kendal, North West||£258,961||£837|
|15. Macclesfield, North West||£277,772||£981|
|16. Exeter, South West||£303,215||£1,234|
|17. Salisbury, South West||£318,806||£1,090|
|18. Horsham, South East||£433,892||£1,433|
|19. St. Albans, East of England||£632,320||£1,888|
|20. Guildford, South East||£542,947||£1,913|
This year, we found that the most important factors people look for in a neighbourhood are a sense of belonging, how friendly the locals are, and “being able to be yourself”.
More than one-in-three of this year’s winning locations are vibrant market towns. The study also shows that people who live in villages are more likely to be happy than those living in town, while those residing by the sea are the happiest of all.
The record-breaking housing market over the past year means that we would estimate that about 1.5 million home-moves will have taken place by the end of the year. The results of this year’s study show that those who have made a move are happier in their area than those who haven’t, regardless of where they have moved to.
More than two-thirds (69%) of people who moved in the last year, chose to move to a different area. Nearly two-thirds of these people (64%), said they are happier in the area they now live, compared with where they moved from. One in five (21%) said they were just as happy in their new area.
“There have been many records broken in the housing market this year, but what perhaps gives us the biggest insight into people’s behaviour and mindset, is that on the whole, moving home is making people happier,” said our property expert Tim Bannister.
“Whether it may be a couple looking for a small change in the same area, tenants looking for more space, or a family completely changing their lifestyle and moving from the city to the coast, this has been the year that people have really seized the opportunity to move, and in many cases turned their dreams into a reality.”