The combination of pent-up demand from Brexit uncertainty and the lockdown has meant there has been some frantic activity since the property market reopened.
As ever, the most up-to-date data comes from the property portals. Zoopla reported an 88% spike in visitors to their website and Rightmove has seen pre-lockdown levels of activity on theirs, with 5.2 million visits on the 13th May – up 4% when compared to the same period last year.
There is still a shortage of stock, with new listings down by 90%, although there are signs fresh supplies are coming onto the market, with an 111% increase in listings on the day the market reopened. In addition, property software company, Reapit, reports viewings are only 26% below their pre-covid levels and buyer registrations are down by just 10.5%.
It will be several months before all that new activity will appear in the sales figures. However, many of the 373,000 sales that were put on hold as a result of the lockdown should soon be heading towards completion.
As you might imagine, the sales process is taking considerably longer than it usually does. Social distancing measures mean arranging viewings is more complicated, mortgage lenders have substantial backlogs for valuations and, at the same time, have tightened lending criteria for higher LTV mortgages. Surveys are also reportedly subject to delays.
Our priorities have changed, too. Having spent so much time cooped up in our homes, 34% now say they feel differently about them than they did before lockdown, 15% have decided to move on, a garden is a top priority for 45%, 35% want more space, good neighbours are an issue for 30% and over 30% now want properties which are both work friendly and have good broadband (source: Nationwide).
So what about prices? Although Nationwide reported a 1.7% fall in May, the increase in demand means prices are generally holding up well, picking up roughly where they left off in March. Until all of May’s sales figures are in (around July), we won’t know how close sellers have come to achieving their asking prices.
There have, though, been no reports of large scale discounting. The real crunch point will come in the autumn when the furlough scheme draws to a close and the redundancies begin. If we follow the same path as we did after the crash of 2008, which looks likely, mortgage rates will be kept at historic lows, which should help ease some of the financial pressure.