The property market is back up and running as announced a week or so ago, viewings can start to go ahead where possible and people can begin to get on with their sale, buying or renting. So is this a good time to be in the property market and what precautions are being taken?
As a property finder, relocation agent, developer and landlord, most of my life revolves around property, so along with my own thoughts about the market I also chatted to some of the leading London Estate Agents to answer questions that may be on your mind.
1. How is the property market looking coming out of lockdown and what impact has Covid 19 had?
Fran Moynihan in sales at Savills’ Riverside office says: We have been exceptionally busy but with some adjustments to the way we are working. Pre lockdown in the first couple of months of this year we had some of the best months ever on the river. That was really due to buyers who had been waiting for the election results in December and some clarity on Brexit. And so that demand is very much still there.
Oliver Sloggett-Taylor from the lettings team at Savills Waterfront added: Enquiries from the 23rd March when we had the actual lockdown to the 18th of May have almost tripled! That’s for lettings and sales combined.
2. With so many people making enquiries, how are physical viewings being tackled?
Fran: We are offering virtual viewings in the first instance before taking the time to visit the property. For the vast majority of our properties now we have video tours and virtual viewings available. If following that the buyer is interested then we’ll arrange a viewing in person.
Oliver: A lot of our applicants are from overseas so will take a property without seeing it. So to some extent we’ve been doing this for so long now it is the normal. So coronavirus hasn’t impacted the way we’ve worked too much at all.
3. What precautions are taken when in person viewings are taking place?
Fran: Obviously the safety of our buyers, clients and staff is paramount. We are strictly adhering to the government guidelines, observing social distancing. We are having no more than two people on each viewing who must be from the same household. We are also asking people not to bring any children under 10 years old. And asking if they’ve had any symptoms recently or if they’ve had any contact with anyone who has experienced symptoms. We are wearing PPE and asking our buyers to do the same; masks and disposable gloves.
Oliver: Taking people in the confined space of a car we’re not allowed to do so we are asking to meet at a property.
4. What about if vendors or tenants are in a property when a viewing is taking place?
Harry Hammonds is the Senior Sales Manager at Aston Rowe, specialising in West London property, he said: We strongly advise all our clients going out for all viewings or waiting in the back garden whilst the viewing happens….. I suppose you can’t complain with this current weather! So sit back and relax whilst we sell your home!
Oliver agreed with the above and added: It’s a good excuse to go for a walk during the viewing. We are very careful, if anything is touched we wipe it down. It’s exactly as Fran said about minimising the risk.
5. Are Estate Agency offices back open for visitors or what’s the guidance about discussing property needs?
Oliver: offices are very much open but by appointment, we’re asking people to give us as much notice as possible. We have made measures to allow people to do that soon after making an enquiry, seeing something online or in the window. But for the short term it’s very much by appointment only in the office.
Harry: Most meetings are currently being done by video calls, phone and e-mail. With the odd game of charades through our office window to try and get our points across to one another….. this has made me chuckle from time to time!
6. We’ve had a lot of time to think about the future and mull over life so if someone is at home now thinking about selling a property or renting out their property can valuations still go ahead and how is that working?
Oliver: The set up is very similar to viewings. We have been doing virtual market appraisals for a while now on a zoom call or on FaceTime or whatever media we can use. You’re actually interacting to a level where you’re shown things you perhaps otherwise wouldn’t see. There are benefits to it and they are working incredibly well. I think it’s something we will continue to do!
Fran: if you asked me several months ago to do a virtual market appraisal it would have seemed like such a strange thing. But I think after a few months of being in lockdown where everyone’s had Zoom calls and FaceTimes with their friends, family and colleagues, I think everyone’s sort of adjusted to it being the new normal now. Our clients are really embracing it!
7. As a relocation agent and property finder, traditionally we arrange maybe 10 or so physical viewings that match a client’s requirements, we’ve found using virtual viewings in a first instance followed by a physical viewing of the top three has really worked, so going forward do you think videos are going to be a way of life in the property market?
Fran: Yes, particularly if you want to view a property that’s not local to you, out of town or overseas, it’s a really good way of streamlining that first viewing. And then effectively an in person viewing almost becomes a second viewing. It’s a good time saving excessive for a lot of people, particularly that are quite poor on spare time.
8. Have you seen any trends in what people are looking for in both sales and lettings since the outbreak of coronavirus?
Fran: I think inevitably that being in lockdown has made a lot of people think about their lifestyle and what they want from their home. People are considering our riverside properties more than ever for their light and views.
Roly Ingleby-MacKenzie is an associate at Knight Frank specialising in the Chelsea and Knightsbridge sales market, he says ‘All property with outside space has seen a noticeable increase in demand. There’s a lot of people that want to get on with their lives, that might be as simple as finding somewhere bigger or somewhere with room for a home office, they are all current drivers.’
Lexie: In the relocation world we’ve noticed an increase in people wanting to be closer to their offices so they can walk or cycle to work without having to use public transport.
Fran: I think cycling around London, I know it’s been a big push from Boris for many years now but I think this will really escalate people’s desire to want to embrace that. Cycling along the river is not only a really nice journey into work but a lot safer perhaps.
Matthew Salvidge, head of the Savills corporate team adds: In the country markets they have been incredibly busy with applicants, many of whom are coming out of London, something we expect to see continue with the potential new ways of working, home working, not wanting or needing to be close to the office and also those wanting to be in more of a rural setting away from the city ‘crush’.
9. Taking into account the low interest rates and mortgage holidays that might be in place, which market do you think will bounce back quicker, Sales or Lettings?
Oliver: A difficult question to honestly answer because no one really knows. The initial answer from a pragmatic perspective is perhaps lettings as it’s a quicker turnaround and people aren’t perhaps so bothered that it’s going to be a forever home where as a sale is of course often an incredibly personal experience and they are choosing a property normally for the long term.
Fran: one of the key drivers for the sales market coming back over the next few months will be the fact that there’s actually not a huge amount of stock coming to market and so the buyers that I’m talking to are actually finding that they are missing out on opportunities because they take too long.
Roly: I’m optimistic. The weak pound and the low stock levels will hold pricing within reason. I’ve had several requests for market appraisals, more than I typically get in a week!
Matthew: In London, we have a lot of available property to let, some coming from the sales market, so ‘accidental landlords’, some coming from other areas such as the serviced apartment industry where firms are giving up properties as that market struggles. Applicant demand is also strong but there does appear to be some good choice for people currently to rent.
10. And finally, we are coming into the busy summer months which are usually manic in the property industry, so overall is it a good time to be in the market?
Harry: I think it’s fair to say that pricing correctly in this market is key on all fronts. With this in mind we have had a surge of buyers registering and since we have opened our doors we have managed to sell three properties this week! So a message to people looking to sell is price accurately and you will sell.
Harry: Also the added addition of the extremely low interest rates really helps. So if you are looking to buy or get on to the property ladder now is the time because we will never see interest rates this low again.
Thanks to the following agents for discussing everything with me!
Let me know your thoughts and views on the current property market and if you have any other questions!