Second lockdown will secure people’s desire to move, says Savills

With England partway through a second lockdown, house moves in both the homeowner and rental sector are continuing apace. How is the ongoing situation affecting attitudes in the market? 

While the first lockdown back in March was mired in uncertainty, the situation is very different this time around. The government has made it clear that the housing market must remain open, with buying and selling continuing as normal wherever possible.

This will have been a relief to many homeowners and property investors midway through purchases. The government has also extended the mortgage payment holiday scheme until next year, while also making changes to eviction rules in the private rented sector.

According to nationwide estate agent Savills, it isn’t quite “business as usual”, but transactions can continue. And thanks to adaptations that the industry has already made, things may run much more smoothly now.

Virtual-first approach

In a recent blog post, Savills head of country residential Andrew Perratt and head of residential office Douglas Sleaper commented: “Our experience during the first lockdown means we have stringent protocols in place that ensure we can deal with clients’ enquiries effectively while observing thorough health and safety procedures at all times.

“The government guidance also permits us to continue to carry out in-person viewings and valuations if both the client and buyer are comfortable. However, we fully recognise that this may not always be appropriate and are once again operating a ‘virtual first’ approach wherever feasible.”

Surveyors, contractors and removal firms are also continuing to operate. However, Savills warns that due to necessary working practices and Covid restrictions, some things may take longer now.

There’s also been a huge surge in property transactions over recent months. While this has been a massive boost to the sector, some aspects may take longer to catch up.

Be prepared

Homeowners and property investors should be as prepared as possible when buying and selling, says Savills. Buyers who keep on top of each stage of the process can push things through more quickly.

On the buyer side, Savills suggests getting your borrowing sorted early on. This means sending off documents as soon as possible to lenders, and completing the application form right at the start.

It adds: “Keeping in regular contact with both your agent and solicitor is also crucial. The smoothest transactions are those where everyone is working together.”

Changing attitudes to homes

While there will be some who prefer to stay put until there is more market certainty, this is not the case for many. The huge amount of activity in both the buying and renting space shows people have been extremely keen to move in recent months.

Thousands of people’s work-life balances have shifted, and for some this may be permanent. Others feel that spending so much time at home has changed their priorities. Having a home office, outdoor space or being close to a park, and excellent internet connectivity are all now top of many peoples’ agendas. Location preferences may also be different now.

According to Zoopla, rental demand is now around 20% higher than this time last year. Property investors and landlords are seeing greater interest in their rental homes, which will reflect in the property investment market. The stamp duty holiday currently in place until 31st March is also driving buyers.

The Savills blog concludes: “If anything, rather than causing a pause in the market, we are expecting the second lockdown to reaffirm people’s desire to move and give added impetus to their search for a new home, especially if they have one eye on beating the stamp duty deadline of 31 March.”

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