Working from home and the future of the housing market

It’s a long one but not all doom and gloom I promise you! I hope you’ll find this piece both informative and reassuring. Remember I’m always here for any calls on 01535 666031 or email me at michael@leightonsestateagency.co.uk

Pre coronavirus housing market

The first 2 months of 2020 really did give a positive indication of how the rest of the year was going to be. After Brexit finally coming to an end in January (remember that one?) and the election in December we had a level of stability that had not been felt for years. People acted on that straight away and the market looked bright and beautiful! We had listed more houses, agreed more sales and registered more people compared to the previous year and the stats nationally suggested very much the same.

Impact since lockdown

The office closed on the 24th March and will of course remain closed until restrictions are lifted. We have a great team and one that will come out stronger once this is over and that is why both Joanne and Helen have been furloughed. For me this is a commitment to them that they have a job to come back to and I’ll need them more than ever when we return back to normal.

For the time being my “desk” is the dining table that also doubles up as the place where the kids have been doing their school work that Eastburn Primary put together for them, family meal times and an overall creative station for all the rainbows and emoji faces the kids have been painting for people on the street and a few that were carefully delivered on the dog walk for people further up Clayton Hall Road! I have to say that I can’t wait to remove the 10 metre long yellow Ethernet cable and not have to have it tracing under my living room carpet, over the top of my kitchen units and through the window though!

Government intervention

The Government acted very promptly with a number of schemes for businesses with grants, business loans and deals for furloughed employees to name the most publicised. Along with the opportunities for mortgage holidays and interest rates being cut twice, I have taken a lot of reassurance from their actions and Craven Council has been fantastic with us too. Naturally we will have to give this all back in one way or another over the coming years but at least they are doing what they can to avoid another recession like we saw in 2009.

Mortgage lenders

As of the 24th March all mortgage lenders pretty much pulled their products. Mortgage valuations (of which we had 4 arranged for that Tuesday) were cancelled by the lenders. In the days to come, everyone was waiting on the two big players, Halifax and Nationwide, to set their stall out for any future business. Nationwide acted first and said that the only new business they will be doing will be for mortgages with a 75% LTV. Meaning the buyer needs to have 25% deposit. Two weeks later and some lenders are agreeing for new applications to be submitted, which will then be put on hold once they get to the valuation stage and some are lending at 85%, providing they can get an accurate automated valuation carried out, which may then be accompanied by a drive-by valuation.

With rates being as low as they are, there could be some really good re-mortgage deals out there for you that could save you quit a bit! Providing you have enough equity in your home then do email Ben Pociecha from Exclusively Mortgages. His email address is ben@exclusivelymortgages.co.uk. He’s an independent mortgage advisor currently working from home, like me, and doing ever and anything he can to help.

What are we doing at the moment?

On the run up to the pending lockdown I visited all of our empty properties to take short video tours. Knowing full well that activities were about to grind to a halt, at least we could offer those thinking about the prospect of moving the next best thing to a viewing and up to press they have been viewed over 400 times and have accrued over 9 hours of play time! There is nothing like physically viewing a property and getting a true feel for the house, but from the feedback we have been given, these videos have been great for allowing people to get a better understanding of how a property flows that can’t be understood from photos and floorplans alone.

Knowing that people will be spending most of their time at home, it crossed my mind that people may well be looking on the portals a lot more. The online stats show that viewing figures are actually up over the last 2 weeks! Proving my thoughts right. People are out there and they’re thinking about properties. That’s for sure!

We have continued to market our properties though all of the major portals too and have a lot of viewings to arrange once normality resumes. Despite no physical appointments we have carried out desktop valuations and have instructions to market 7 new houses as soon as we can. All of this on top of progressing the agreed sales and getting them to a position to exchange and even completing on some empty properties too.  We might not be sat in the office but we are continuing to work very hard!

What about when the restrictions are lifted?

As soon as it is safe to do so it will be business as usual for us. Viewings to make, valuations to book and properties needing photographing! We will be very busy and I am very much looking forward to swapping my temporary conservatory workstation for my office again and of course looking forward to getting to work alongside Joanne and Helen (working alongside Helen at home painting the fence  decking doesn’t count!)

Will we need more government intervention?

The first big step will be to see what the mortgage lenders do with new products again. Assuming that borrowing is encouraged by them then I think a lot of people will pick up where they left off or want to get started with the process asap. It appears that this fight with the coronavirus is not going to be won until next year so those that want to move will act quickly as to not fall victim to being in a position with a half submitted mortgage application and another lockdown situation.

Another thing that has been suggested is a stamp duty holiday. This has not just been suggested by someone in the business but by the RICS, who typically hold pretty conservative views on this sort of thing. With advice coming from such a highly regarded organisation, I’d like to think that Rishi could be on our screens again at some point delivering this sort of news.

Those in a position to proceed hold all the cards

People have and always will need to move and no coronavirus is going to change that. I think what we will see will be a surge of activity across the board when restrictions are lifted. All of our sales are progressing forward but a number of them can’t view anything at the moment, but I can guarantee that they have been looking online at properties! Once the restrictions are lifted they will be straight out to view. Also, assuming that they already have the deposit or if lending criteria is relaxed, first time buyers will be out in force.

House prices up or down?

There is a lot that can influence house prices but the actions taken so far have not had a sudden impact on property prices and whilst there will be some uncertainly moving forward I do not expect prices to drop or the market to collapse. There will certainly be a lot less sales but that is simply because we have to write off what is arguably the busiest time of the year for people moving home. In deed Knight Frank (one of the world largest property consultants) suggest that transactions could be down by 38%, assuming this lockdown continues until the end of May. They also state quite a modest decrease in house prices of 3% with a sharp upturn in 2021.All of this of course is based on the length of the current lockdown situation.

What does the future hold?

I think we will all take a lot of positive moving forward and come out of the other side wanting to make a load of changes in our work and home life. This time we have had at home with family has been very special but it also makes you feel sad at the same time as we’ve been unable to visit extended family and friends has really put things in to perspective. But look at how quickly we have evolved alongside new technology! I have a load of things I want to do with the business and am so excited to get back at it as soon as possible.

What to do now?

We have never spent so long in our houses as we have in the last 3 weeks. I’m sure that there will be plenty of people wanting a fresh start once this is over so if you want to move then speak with me. There is a lot we can do and a lot of advice I can give you. I’ve never had as much time to be able to sit and spend 10, 20, 30 minutes on the phone with people to really help them get off on the right foot when normality resumes.

Thank you!

We really are fortunate though to live in such a lovely and desirable part of the country. The schools are fantastic and South Craven continues to bring new families in to the area who want their kids to go there. We have some superb businesses on the high street that, if you follow their presence on social media, are doing some really amazing things during this worrying period we are all in. We have Airedale Hospital on our doorstep and great commuter links also. I don’t know about you but I have found that when I have had to buy groceries I have been able to do everything locally and I am thankful for that as not everyone is fortunate to be able to.

Above everything else though, look after yourself and your families and loved ones. Help out where you can, so long as it is safe to do so. I’m sure you have all been humbled in one way or another to see our communities really pull together under such dire circumstances and to our fantastic NHS and key workers, who we have probably all taken for granted but won’t ever do again!

Thanks for reading

Michael

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