More than a quarter (26%) of UK renters and homeowners have found their property needs have changed since the outbreak of COVID-19, according to Wayhome.

Almost three-fifths (58%) said they view homeownership as top life milestone.

Women (61%) and parents (56%) were more focused on homeownership as a key milestone, compared with men (54%) and those without children (36%).

Features which have become more important post-COVID include garden (36%), more space (30%) and a home office (26%).

Features which have become less important post-COVID included having an easy commute (17%), being close to local amenities (17%) and being near public transport (14%).

Nigel Purves, chief executive of Wayhome, said: “This report shines a light on just how deep rooted the UK’s property affordability crisis actually is.

“Despite the pandemic-induced exodus, rents in big cities continue to soar, with young professionals and divorcees leading the renewed drive for city-living.

“But demand for gardens and more space doesn’t necessarily align with the reality of properties on offer.

“Renting can be a good option for some, but it should be just that, an option.

“Millions of people in the UK are stuck in properties which don’t meet their needs, especially families with young children, and key workers who are wedded to a particular area because of their jobs and support networks.

“These groups are left paying high rents on often unsuitable rental homes.

“And to add insult to injury, they have no security and very little freedom: they can be kicked out at nearly any time, and their landlords stop them keeping pets or even changing the paint colour on the walls.

“This continued pressure on saving combined with the unfair mortgage lending criteria means that even if they can afford a deposit and mortgage-level monthly rents, these reluctant renters are unable to take their first step onto the property ladder.

“It’s vital the government treats this issue as urgent – if it truly hopes to turn ‘Generation Rent’ into ‘Generation Buy’, it must work together with the property industry to innovate and provide alternative routes to homeownership.”