What to expect from the market when the lockdown ends
As the lockdown measures continue to be eased, many people have resumed their property searches. Now that the housing market, as a key part of the UK economy, has been allowed to restart, we are once again helping people to move after members of our team returned to the branch on Monday 18th May – but what can we expect from the market in the near future?
Which Thorgills teams are now available?
On Monday 18th May, members of our Thorgills team returned to our branch, providing our full range of services. This includes members of our Sales and Lettings teams, who will be able to respond to telephone and email enquiries, as well as conducting viewings and valuations both online and in person where suitable. Since then, more of us have returned to the branch in order to respond to the increasing numbers of enquiries we have experienced in the last few weeks.
Our Property Management, Client Support, Accounts and Renewals teams, all of which have been operating remotely during the lockdown, will continue to be available as some members of these teams have returned to the branch.
How are Thorgills ensuring they are working safely?
Of course, it is of paramount importance that our working practices ensure the safety of our team, our clients and our community.
We are committed to following the government’s guidelines on social distancing where possible. Our branch, which usually houses around 40 people, is occupied by only a small proportion of our team, enabling them to maintain a safe distance from one another. In addition, although our team are inside the branch, we would like to clarify that the branch is not currently open to the public.
Our teams are available to conduct viewings and valuations over video in order to minimise the number of face-to-face appointments taking place. We advise you to take advantage of these in the first instance, but we are able to arrange viewings and valuations in person.
Please only arrange a face-to-face viewing if you are giving serious consideration to placing your property on the market, or if you are seriously considering making an offer on a property. In the latter case, we advise that you view any photographs and floor plans available before viewing a property in person if possible.
Where a face-to-face appointment does take place, we request that anyone meeting one of our team maintains a safe distance where possible. Appointments may be shorter than usual so we recommend bringing a notepad so that you can make notes for later reference. Viewers will need to arrange their own transport as we are not able to share vehicles with anyone at this time.
We will check prior to an appointment whether any party has experienced any symptoms of COVID-19 and will rearrange if we feel there is any risk to either our clients or our team.
Our team is only completing in-person appointments at vacant properties, unless consent is given by both the occupant and the attendee for an appointment to take place at an occupied property. In these instances, we may ask the occupant to leave the premises for the duration of the viewing to make social distancing easier.
During any face-to-face appointments, our team members are wearing personal protective equipment and will not touch any surfaces within the property. We request that anyone we are meeting bring their own face masks, although we are able to provide gloves. If the property is occupied, we ask that all doors, and at least one window in each room if possible, be opened prior to the appointment so that visitors to the property do not need to touch them.
Should the viewer wish to make an offer, any offer forms which they may need to complete will be signed online.
What will the market look like after the lockdown?
It is hard to say exactly what the market will look like in the coming weeks and months, as we’ve never experienced anything like this before.
It isn’t completely clear how the market was performing before the virus began to impact upon it, as the year had hardly started and so minimal data is available.
However, from what we can see in the first three months the market looked healthy - with a 0.3% rise in transaction volumes on the same period in 2019. In addition, whilst the lockdown has impacted the volume of sales, it hasn’t prevented the sales agreed at the beginning of the year from progressing: the lockdown does not seem to have been affecting conveyancing, and most sales which were agree before the lockdown are continuing as sales progressors have been able to work from home.
The outlook in May was positive, as we'd noted that most vendors and landlords had remained on the market during the outbreak, and Rightmove reported only a 2.6% fall in available sales stock during this period. This strongly indicated to us that these homeowners were still looking to sell or let their properties and wanted do so as soon as the market restarted. This, coupled with a steady increase in new buyer and tenant enquiries which we experienced as the plans for the easing of the lockdown were announced, meant that we were confident that the weeks following the return of the housing market would be a very busy period - especially as many of these potential movers needed to find a new home urgently, so we expected that their pent-up demand would be released quickly as soon as they were able to start viewing properties again.
Over the weeks immediately after the market restarted, we have found these predictions to be accurate. Both our sales and lettings teams have received enquiry volumes similar to those we experienced prior to the lockdown, and have rewarded our clients' patience during the closure by agreeing a series of sales and lets. In fact, the team has been so busy that we have re-introduced several additional team members in order to cope with the demand in the market.
Prior to the easing of the lockdown, we were unsure of how the market would look after the initial spike in activity which we are currently experiencing. The property market is heavily influenced by home-movers' confidence, so if people were not comfortable with the easing of restrictions - or if there was a rise in the number of cases - it was possible that demand would start to fall again. However, from what we've seen, we are confident that the market is moving in the right direction. Covid case numbers in West London are currently low, and movers have seen that we - and they - are able to operate safely and effectively, so we expect that the industry will continue to experience a steady rise in demand, in line with society's gradual return to normal. This should be aided by the low interest rate available at the moment, which will encourage some movers as it has made mortgages more affordable, especially if buyers are able to lock in a fixed rate. In addition, there are rumours that the Help To Buy scheme may be extended in order to galvanise the housebuilding industry and encourage first-time buyers after the lockdown.
With sellers, buyers, landlords and tenants alike all still planning their next move, it appears that the market is steadily returning to normal – so if you are thinking of moving, you should start preparing to ensure you are ready to act should the opportunity present itself. We are available to conduct a valuation by video and you can look at our available properties here so you’re ready to move when you feel it is safe to do so.