Survey shows UK millennials prefer city centre living

UK rental market: major cities are seeing a surge in demand

Major UK cities saw an uplift in demand in the second quarter of 2021. What does this mean for the UK rental market moving forward?

Research by estate and letting agent, Barrows and Forrester, revealed rental demand has been returning to the majority of cities in the UK. Across the board, the UK’s major cities have seen rental demand hit an average of 33%. This is up from 23% in the second quarter of 2020.

The Barrows and Forrester Rental Demand Index monitors rental listings across the major property portals. The analysis looks at 23 major UK cities. It takes an average demand score based on where has the highest number of properties already let as a percentage of all rental listings.

Where is demand the highest?

There are a number of cities seeing notable increases in demand. Even 12 locations are seeing double-digit growth year-on-year, including Bournemouth, Cardiff, Glasgow, Sheffield, Newcastle and Manchester. This shows strong demand is being seen in rental markets across the UK.

During the second quarter of the year, only a handful of cities have seen drops, including Belfast, Plymouth, Nottingham and a few London boroughs. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, London has arguably been the worst hit city in the rental market. However, there are signs of a revival as demand averaged 30%. This is a 4% increase from the second quarter of 2020.

What’s behind the rise?

As lockdown restrictions have eased in recent months, demand has returned to city centres in strong numbers. Demand has surged as more socialising has been allowed and more businesses opened their doors after successive lockdowns. This is naturally making city living more appealing.

Additional data has shown that this increase in rental demand has also caused a drop in void periods for buy-to-let landlords. Individual landlords’ experience will differ vastly when it comes to void periods, most of which is down to location. In areas of particularly high demand, void periods can be minimal.

James Forrester, managing director of Barrows and Forrester, says: “A string of national lockdowns and the many restrictions that came with them caused rental demand to dwindle across the UK’s major cities during much of 2020.

“However, the vaccine rollout and a return to the workplace have all played a part in reviving the rental market and we’re now starting to market activity climb in all but a handful of locations. This will come as welcome news to the UK’s landlords, many of which have had to drop rents in order to secure some form of income during the pandemic.”

What’s expected moving forward?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to confirm that most of England’s lockdown restrictions will end on 19 July. Professionals are starting to return to the workplace. This will likely further increase demand in major cities across the UK.

“There’s a very real feeling that normality is starting to return and with so many reliant on the rental sector in order to live, we expect demand to continue to climb for the remainder of the year,” James Forrester concludes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of the private rented sector. As house prices have soared in the past year, it has become more challenging for some to get on the property ladder. And added job and financial uncertainty have brought additional challenges.

At the same time, renting has become cheaper than buying on a monthly basis. This makes the private rented sector a more affordable option for many. And this further shows the need for more high-quality rental accommodation across the UK.

Self-certified Sophisticated Investor

Please read

I declare that I am a self-certified sophisticated investor for the purposes of the restriction on promotion of non-mainstream pooled investments. I understand that this means:

I am a self-certified sophisticated investor because at least one of the following applies:

I accept that the investments to which the promotions will relate may expose me to a significant risk of losing all of the money or other property invested. I am aware that it is open to me seek advice from someone who specialises in advising on non-mainstream pooled investments.

High Net Worth Investor

Please read

I make this statement so that I can receive promotional communications which are exempt from the restriction on promotion of non-mainstream pooled investments. The exemption relates to certified high net worth investors and I declare that I qualify as such because at least one of the following applies to me:


Sign up for first access to new developments and exclusive property investment opportunities.

We send limited and targeted emails on new launches and exclusive deals which best fit your areas. We are trusted by over 30,000 active buyers as their source for new stock.

  • New property developments
  • Professional market reports
  • Property deal alerts
  • Development updates
Manchester property investment


Receive trending news straight to your inbox and stay up to date on all of the property market trends and advice.

Established since 2005 we are a leading voice of authority and commentary on the UK property market. Our news is trusted by Apple News & Google News.

  • UK housing market
  • Mortgage & money
  • Buy-to-let landlords
  • Guides & advice

Talk to us

Speak to our UK property experts today:


+44 (0) 333 123 0320

Open from 9am-6pm GMT


+852 6699 9008

Open from 9am-6pm HKT