UK housing

Lenders and conveyancers under pressure as UK property sales rise

There are 50% more sales in the pipeline right now compared to this time last year. As buyers and sellers continue to push ahead, how will those working in the UK property industry keep up?

The past few months have seen unprecedented demand across the country’s housing market. The latest report from Zoopla reveals there are currently 140,000 more sales in the pipeline than usual for this time of year. This is 50% higher than in 2019 as people move quickly to secure purchases post-lockdown.

On average, it takes around 100 days to complete an agreed sale. According to Zoopla, the fact that there are so many more sales in the pipeline right now than normal means buyers should factor this into their decision-making.

“Most sales agreed in the final quarter of a calendar year will complete by the end of the first quarter of the next under normal market conditions,” says the report.

“However, 54% of sales agreed in January will complete by the end of the first quarter, falling to less than a fifth in February.”

Clock is ticking

Zoopla estimates that there is around £112bn worth of property – 418,000 homes – in the process of selling right now. Many of the buyers and sellers involved are hoping to complete by Christmas, or Q1 2021.

Anyone who doesn’t take action on a UK property by the end of January could face delays, says the property portal.

“They should find an agent well before Christmas and instruct a conveyancer to get as much paperwork together as possible to boost the chances of a sale,” says the report.

However, there is evidence that demand is finally beginning to slow down. Over the past few weeks, new buyer enquiries have fallen to pre-Covid levels. However, they are still 46% higher than they were at the end of 2019. This shows the huge appetite still present in the market.

Looking ahead

The stamp duty holiday has spurred on a number of additional property transactions. While this may skew the figures the short-term, the surge in activity is likely down to more factors.

Many movers are being spurred on by other favourable conditions such as high levels of property for sale. The Zoopla report shows levels of sales inventory are currently around 18% higher than a year ago.

The report adds: “More supply brings greater choice for buyers and will act to keep house price growth in check. Much of this supply is also at higher average sales prices than a year ago creating something of a risk to future sales volumes should demand weaken materially in the first half of 2021.”

Low mortgage rates are another draw for many, particularly UK property investors. This is tied in with extremely low savings rates, making real estate an even more popular asset class right now. Lifestyle changes and work-life balance adjustments are also a catalyst for people buying and selling.

The end of the year will see many of the sales currently in the pipeline come to fruition. The additional volumes could cause delays for agents, valuers and conveyancers, though.

Zoopla concludes: “The stamp duty deadline will focus the minds of committed movers in the near term and make for a strong first quarter of sales completions in 2021. The outlook for the remainder of 2021 is less certain and we consider the outlook for the year ahead in more detail in next month’s index report.”

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