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With headlines announcing sharp falls in house prices and families evacuating London for idyllic countryside living, we spoke to our property partners to understand how Covid-19 and lockdown has changed the market.
Over lockdown, unsurprisingly, house viewings ground to a halt. Sellers were encouraged to film their homes to attract online viewings, as prospective buyers spent furloughed days perusing agents’ websites, planning their next move. Pent-up frustration exists among those wanting to buy or sell – years of uncertainty following Brexit had led to a very active first quarter earlier this year and talk of a very strong comeback to London’s housing market, but Covid-19 stopped nearly all activity overnight. Now buyers and sellers are emerging ready to do business again. But what does it mean? What does the property market look like right now?
“We’ve seen a huge increase in activity both on rentals and sales,” explains Joel Baseley of Rampton Baseley. “There is a combination of drivers here; partly because of the build-up in demand over the previous two months, and secondly from buyers and tenants wanting to change their current set up for reasons that have been highlighted by the lockdown.”
For most people lockdown has brought starkly into focus what they want from a home, with increased garden size and a dedicated work area high on the list. “Buyers want more outdoor space, and even space in the garden for a separate studio or office,” says Charles Streatfeild from Marsh & Parsons. Children’s needs have also been prioritised, with space to play and study also sought out. “We had one buyer register with a budget in excess of £6,000,000 who wanted to be completely detached from neighbours as a result of the intensity of lockdown!” says Joel.
There are lots of families who want to sell up in the city and move out of London – with talk of the future workplace being more from home than from the office, families are undoubtedly assessing their lives and how they want to live. “Without doubt it has accelerated people’s existing plans to move out of London,” explains Austin Thorogood of John Thorogood. “But it has also made people look to change their home environment within London.” Rentals have also been impacted; with rental tenants serving notice to move out of London or seek properties with more space to work from home, there is more on the market than previously.
With so many of us reassessing our lives and the increasing movement as a result, is this now a buyers’ market? Local agents don’t seem to agree on this. On the one hand, Medleen Brereton of Portico believes it is. “We have seen a lot of homeowners wanting to sell and move their families outside of London and prices are being reduced to get the interest.” Others aren’t so sure. Joel explains: “A buyers’ market would imply that there is a huge amount of choice and prices had fallen or were falling; we’ve had no evidence of either of those factors. On the contrary, we have conducted 10 best and final offers (sealed bids) since we got back, and in some instances record sales prices have been achieved.” Charles believes that it is no more a buyers’ market than it was pre-lockdown, with asking prices barely impacted by recent events.
But buyers are cautious. With an uncertain jobs market and a recession to deal with, some are nervous to move too rashly. “We are dealing with an interesting market where (after four or so years of indecision over Brexit) there is some pent-up activity to both sell and buy,” reveals Austin. “People have been procrastinating for some time about the best time to buy or sell and Covid will bring more procrastination no doubt. The gamechanger may be Rishi Sunak’s early July announcement that there will be no stamp duty to pay on property purchases up to £500,000. “An extra £15k in the pockets of the buyers who have already agreed deals on flats and houses between and around the commons will be a nice surprise, of course,” Austin continues. “And whilst any cuts to this painful duty are generally well received, from my experience they bed into negotiations all too quickly. I have already had one vendor cashing in on this to push the buyer harder – so will it achieve its objective of helping buyers? We shall see…”
Whether you’re considering selling up and moving out or looking to increase your square footage in NappyValley, one truth remains unchanged – this resolutely remains a desirable place to live, with a strong sense of community and access to outdoor space and services that many of us found invaluable during lockdown. Joel reflects how he has been genuinely shocked by how many people think that there is a complete evacuation of South West London in progress right now. “Without a doubt, there are some families who have it in their life plan to move to the countryside and in some instances those families have brought forward these plans, but the majority of families here still love the community that they live in and as such want to move within the community. There always has been and always will be a special feeling about the villages around the commons.”
As well as the properties above, here are some more desirable properties ticking the post-lockdown wish list right now:
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