Green Shoots Appearing in the Housing Market

Written by John Fynan - 13.05.20

Buyers and renters in England will be able to move house again from Wednesday under plans set out by the government to re-start a housing market all but frozen by restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Green shoots appearing in the housing market

Last month the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said the housing market had been thrown into the deep freeze by the lockdown. Rightmove, which typically advertises more than 90% of houses for sale on behalf of British estate agents, said new sales were almost impossible.

The government said more than 450,000 buyers and renters had been unable to progress their move plans since March - Reuters

Recent figures from estate agents Knight Frank showed transaction numbers in the week ending 2 May were 54 per cent below their five-year average.

However, data on new buyer registrations suggested that people are starting to prepare for life after the lockdown.

In the week ending 28 March registrations were 77 per cent below the five-year average for London. By 2 May this narrowed to a decline of 60 per cent, while the number of new prospective buyers doubled over this period - City AM

Buying and selling during lockdown

Contrary what may perceived, the property market had not ground to a complete halt during the lockdown, and although there has been a significant drop off in movement we have seen resilience from our clients with transactions underway before lock-down, as well as positivity from new clients who just want to get on with buying and selling a property.

A number of these transactions have progressed to exchange entirely during the lockdown period, whilst following the Government’s social distancing guidance.

It is thanks to a strong team effort and feeling of pragmatism from all involved, including lenders, estate agents, brokers, land registry and solicitors on the other side – that the market was able to tick along.

Property market set to reopen as lockdown rules eased for home buyers and sellers

Yesterday the Government released further guidance that from Wednesday, people will be allowed to travel to visit estate agents, letting agents or show homes, keeping in line with social distancing guidelines. House buyers will also be permitted to view residential properties they wish to buy or rent - Telegraph

Previously it was the travelling to and from properties for "non-essential purposes" that was the key factor in restricting activity.

But an amendment to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations 2020 published on Tuesday evening means travelling can be undertaken for a range of purposes including, explicitly, dealing in property - Estate Agent Today

Housing minister Robert Jenrick said in a statement:

“I am announcing new guidelines to allow the housing market to resume. Our clear plan will enable people to move home safely, covering each aspect of the sales and letting process from viewings to removals. This critical industry can now safely move forward, and those waiting patiently to move can now do so.”

All activities required to facilitate the sale or rental of a home are also able to resume, including property valuers attending properties.

These details were released in a statutory instrument that is to be put to Parliament on Wednesday - Telegraph

Alistair Elliott, chairman and senior partner at estate agents Knight Frank, told the BBC's Today programme the measures were "a major first step".

"We believe the public will have confidence to re-engage with the housing market," he said.

He added that Knight Frank was implementing "firm-wide plans" to adapt all its premises to conform to social distancing rules and that government guidance would be followed "every step of the way."

A joint statement to Estate Agent Today from David Cox, chief executive of ARLA and Mark Hayward, chief executive of NAEA Propertymark reads:

“It’s great news for consumers and the industry that the housing market is being opened up and people can let, rent, buy and sell properties again. The new regulations provide clarity to agents and will allow them to deal with pent up demand from consumers. It’s also a step to reinvigorating the housing market and will be a boost to the economy. Safety of course will be paramount, and we would encourage everyone to ensure that they follow Government guidelines closely to protect others and themselves.”

Advice from the property team at Laurus

We are dedicated to giving our clients pragmatic advice and the personal touch. As the housing market returns to life we expect it to become increasingly competitive. It is more important than ever that agents, lawyers and all other involved parties work closely together to ensure their clients have a successful and timely transaction.

What this means for sellers

At Laurus we act for clients from valuation onwards to ensure their paperwork is in place and their property is Sale Ready ahead of a buyer being found. We have found this to be highly effective during the lockdown period.

This enables us to have a draft contract and supporting documents ready to supply to the other side's solicitors and to anticipate enquiries and prepare answers in advance. We have seen this approach dramatically reduce the time taken between offer acceptance and exchange.

What this means for buyers

Competing with other buyers for property can be stressful especially within a slightly unknown market. It requires the right professional around you to avoid disappointment and wasted costs.

Effective sales progression from both lawyer and agent is key. There is an overlap in the responsibilities of the lawyer, surveyor, mortgage broker, and estate agent. A successful team will see the agent and lawyer acting as project managers and working together to ensure a timely and successful sale.

At Laurus we take a proactive and collaborative approach, working closely together with all parties to ensure that key stages are completed early and that the lines of communication are kept open at all times.

Working together is the foundation of the Laurus ethos

Swift and efficient communication is key. The days of lawyers not accepting calls or responding to emails from estate agents belong in the past. If we are to help our clients complete their transaction successfully it is a team effort and all parties need to know exactly where we are along the process.

If you are passionate about helping your clients achieve a timely and successful transaction, and to take advantage of the renewed optimism in the market, please get in touch.