If your home is currently on the market, or you were planning a move in 2020, you may be wondering what your next steps might be. With all the uncertainty about when lockdown measures might be lifted, and how the long term effects of the Coronavirus might impact all aspects of our lives, many of our property clients are looking for concrete answers on how to proceed. And while we may not be able to predict the future, we can give our best advice based on our knowledge of the property market.
First, for context, it’s worth looking at where we were before lockdown began. Over the past few years there has been a considerable slowing of the property market due to a general feeling of economic uncertainty in the run up to Brexit. However, the first few months of 2020 showed a potential upswing with an increase in demand and upsurge in sales. Obviously, this positive trend has been somewhat paused by the stay at home measures, meaning that buyers are unable to attend physical viewings, estate agents are unable to carry out valuations, and surveyors are unable to complete inspections. But there are still signs of steady demand with plenty of online searches, virtual viewings, and conveyancing work continuing throughout lockdown.
Additionally, the vast majority of sellers who already had properties on the market before lockdown are continuing with their plans and keeping them for sale. This is a really positive sign that there is an overall confidence in the housing market at all levels, and house prices appear to be staying steady following the tentative buoyant period of growth (2-3%) at the beginning of the year.
Obviously, any existing sales are or prospective likely to take a little longer than usual due to the delays caused by lockdown, but this too can be seen in an optimistic way. Most sales tend to take around 3-4 months anyway, and the enforced downtime can be used to progress the conveyancing side of things, get all your paperwork in order, secure a mortgage offer, and get deals closer to completion so that when quarantine is lifted you’re able to go right ahead with the final few steps. If you’re selling, use this time to carry out some last minute updates, decluttering and redecoration to get your home in top condition for viewings. Some estate agents are also offering to organise virtual viewings to help ensure social distancing. If you’re buying, make the most of online search facilities, speak to estate agents and conveyancers and get your finances in order.
Many people are worried that existing offers might be withdrawn, or buyers might drop their offer price in light of the situation, but in our experience so far this has not been the case. Most buyers are in some sort of chain, and even if circumstances change, people are doing their best to keep things moving with good will and understanding. The Government has also made agreements with banks to honour existing mortgage agreements during this uncertain time.
Speaking of mortgages, interest rates have never been lower, which, combined with the predicted continuing rising demand, is a positive sign that lenders will keep lending with competitive rates. The Government may also introduce further initiatives to bolster the property market and enable people to buy, such as freezing stamp duties, help to buy schemes, or low deposit mortgages. Those with existing offers and deals may want to watch closely on these developments in case there are any additional ways of saving.
Overall, all signs point to the current ‘frozen’ house market to be just that – a necessary pause rather than a downturn. Mortgage holidays and low interest rates mean that people are more likely to be able to recover and afford to continue with their moving plans. House prices are holding steady, and the pent up demand from the beginning of the year is likely to still be there once lockdown lifts. In fact, many estate agents are already seeing an increase in enquiries, so we may see a sudden surge in sales and activity in the latter half of the year. Even more reason to crack on with that conveyancing prep and paperwork now!
For more advice on the current guidelines surrounding the sale of property during lockdown, read our blog on the subject, or check out our lockdown conveyancing to-do list for ideas on how to expedite the process. And to speak to an experienced property solicitor to discuss your specific needs and legal issues, please get in touch at www.franceslindsay.co.uk.