The country’s third lockdown in less than twelve months is set to last until at least the middle of February, although the situation is under regular review. However, unlike the first lockdown in March, which effectively brought the property market to a standstill, this one bears a close resemblance to ‘business as usual’, but with necessary Covid precautions in place.
The essential facts are that viewings, completions and moves can go ahead and building work on new homes can continue. Although offices may be closed, property professionals including us at Portico are still offering the full range of sales, lettings and other property services. And, home repairs and improvements can continue as tradespeople are allowed to work in homes. All of these activities however are subject to social distancing and other Government guidelines to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
Stamp Duty holiday deadline unchanged
There have been concerns that this lockdown might affect the ‘scramble’ to complete before the end of March deadline for buyers and sellers taking advantage of the Stamp Duty holiday.
The announcement of the holiday had accelerated demand, particularly for properties below £500,000 where buyers were able to save around £15,000. Despite fast sales, completions have been delayed by bottlenecks in processing record numbers of mortgage applications and similar hold-ups in the legal processes with many staff working from home.
The good news is that the third lockdown poses no new specific barriers, although mortgage processing and completions may continue to be slow with the Government encouraging employees to work from home wherever possible. The Government has not extended the 31st March deadline for the end of the Stamp Duty holiday, so there will not be time for any new buyers to take advantage of the scheme. Related: How Will The Prime Minister's Plan To Offer 95% Mortgages Work?
Related: Can I Move House And Keep The Same Mortgage?
1 bedroom, 1 bathroom | Fitzhugh Grove, Battersea, SW18
Home moves take place but with restrictions
If you have planned to move during the lockdown period you can go ahead — and you can use the services of removal firms, utilities and essential tradespeople. However, you must stick to the rules and avoid asking for help from friends or family outside your household or individual support bubble.
If you had bought new items like washing machines or cookers for your new home, you may find that some retailers have stopped offering installation services during the lockdown, so check before finalising moving arrangements.
Related: Where To Buy Property In London In 2021
Viewings going virtual
The lockdowns have demonstrated how technology can fill a gap and overcome problems when live interactions can’t take place, and this is particularly true of property viewings.
Although current Government guidelines do allow buyers or tenants to view properties in person by appointment, feedback from the market indicates that more people are taking advantage of virtual viewings using video and other technologies.
In some cases, they are using virtual viewings to narrow down their choices to a shortlist before arranging visits. But, there are reports of buyers making offers on the basis of just a virtual viewing. Anecdotal evidence suggests that older buyers and sellers may prefer the safer approach of virtual viewings.
The advances in technology have certainly contributed to increased use of virtual viewings and greater confidence among buyers and tenants. One example is the Matterport virtual tour, which provides potential buyers with an immersive virtual tour of your home using 3D rendering. The ‘tour’ is hosted on the Matterport site, one of the leading companies in this field, and linked to portico.com, Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket. We can offer this as part of our new sales package, as well as home staging using computer generated imagery.Buyers get a great preview of your home and can then either arrange a viewing or make an offer based on what they’ve seen.
Where buyers want to visit a property, guidelines indicate that the property should be new, newly refurbished, vacant or one where sellers or existing tenants are willing to vacate the property during the viewing.
Changing patterns of demand
Each of the lockdowns has focused people on the potential benefits and downsides of working from home and the current lockdown looks set to accelerate the trend and have a continuing impact on the property market.
2020 saw increasing demand for larger properties in both sales and rental sectors as people look for the additional space needed to make a home office a practical reality. In the build-to let sector, corporate landlords are seeing growing demand for properties with individual or shared workspaces and high-speed Internet connections.
The change in demand has been accompanied by a strong drift to outer London boroughs as people no longer need to commute to central areas to work. Outer London also offers greater access to open spaces for people looking for a better work/life balance when working from home.
Impact on prices
2020 saw house prices rising across the capital with an average of £496,000 in London. The first national lockdown saw a sharp fall in buyer and seller sentiment. But, since then confidence has risen and so has demand.
So far, the third lockdown has shown no signs of a slowdown in activity or fall in prices, despite the return of economic uncertainty.
Though many property experts believe 2021 will see zero increase in house prices as the country’s economic problems continue, 2022 may see a return to price growth with experts forecasting a 4 percent increase.
In the rental sector, the latest in the series of lockdowns has created further economic uncertainty around job security and ability to maintain regular rental payments.
While average rental prices in London fell by around 3 percent in 2020, the rapid acceleration of the vaccination programme offers prospects of a return to more certain economic conditions when lockdown ends. And, with more rental properties likely to return to the market rental prices should rise again.
Keeping Portico clients safe
At Portico, we are pleased that the Government has recognised that the housing market should remain open as an essential service. We will continue to offer our full range of sales and letting services during this lockdown, but we will adhere strictly to guidelines to protect our clients and our staff.
These are the measures we are taking:
- Our staff wear protective equipment, including a facemask and gloves during any personal valuation or viewing. These can also be provided for the vendor, landlord or tenants if required. Staff can wear shoe coverings as an extra precaution.
- Our staff are also happy to attend a vacant property if keys can be provided, with a follow-up call to take place after the visit. We are also able to carry out a ‘virtual valuation’ if the client is able to provide photographs or a video.
- Our staff use hand sanitiser before and after the appointment and use anti-bacterial wipes for any areas that are touched during a visit.
- On any visit or meeting, they keep more than a 2 metre distance at all times.
If you would like to find out more about the way we can help property deals go forward during lockdown, please get in contact.
Click the link for an online property valuation, or give us a call on 020 7099 4000 if you’re thinking of selling, buying or renting. !!