A property supply shortage is driving an increase in off-plan sales across England and Wales, and Hertfordshire is seeing a greater proportion of such transactions than almost anywhere else.

According to new research by Hamptons, East Hertfordshire and Welwyn Hatfield were among the 10 local authorities with the highest percentage of off-plan sales during 2021.

In East Herts, 67 per cent of new homes completed last year were sold before they were built, behind Cotswold (86 per cent) and Monmouthshire (74 per cent). In Welwyn Hatfield the figure was 65 per cent.

Just two of the 10 local authorities with the highest proportion of homes sold off-plan across England and Wales last year were in London, down from six five years ago.

Top 10 local authorities with highest percentage of off-plan sales (2021)







East Hertfordshire










Welwyn Hatfield




Source: Hamptons & Land Registry

The fall in the number of properties for sale fuelled the first rise in new homes sold off-plan since 2016, Hamptons said.

In 2021, 37 per cent of new homes sold in England and Wales found a buyer before being built, up from 35 per cent in 2020 but below the 47 per cent peak recorded in 2017.

Buyers handed over a record £1.1bn in deposits to secure homes before they were built last year, with smaller schemes with less than 10 homes seeing the largest increases in off-plan sales between 2020 and 2021.

David Fell, senior analyst at Hamptons – who used Land Registry data to produce this analysis – said: “The lack of second-hand homes available to buy has meant that owner-occupiers are increasingly turning to new builds, with more willing to buy off-plan in the face of limited options on the market.

"Typically, these are chain-free homeowners who have more flexibility on moving dates.

"Despite this, owner-occupiers don’t buy as far in advance as investors who are often happy to wait a year or two, particularly when prices are rising.

"They’re also more likely to seek out bespoke, individually designed houses in smaller schemes, rather than flats in big city centre blocks."

David added: “After nearly four years of falls, the rise in off-plan sales will provide respite for developers looking to maintain sales rates as Help to Buy winds down.

"Whether this shorter-term shift has the potential to turn into a longer-term trend remains to be seen, but unlike the past, it’s owner-occupiers rather than investors who are likely to continue driving off-plan sales in 2022.”