Property Market Picks Up As Viewings Approach Pre-Lockdown Levels

Industry reports suggest that the UK property market is approaching pre-lockdown levels as the conveyancing market saw a recovery in May and June.

House prices continued their post-lockdown recovery in August, notching up their highest monthly rise in more than 16 years, according to the Nationwide Building Society.

“House prices have now reversed the losses recorded in May and June and are at a new all-time high,” said its chief economist, Robert Gardner.

Prices rose by 2 percent last month, it said, taking the average price to £224,123.

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The Conveyancing Market Tracker by Search Acumen recorded a massive decline in the property market at the start of the second quarter of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the property market. But information gathered by the Property Market Insights Report, which covers approximately 50 percent of UK estate agents and a number of conveyancing firms, suggests that there is now an upward trend, though at a reduced rate.

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While volumes at the end of June returned towards levels last seen in early March, current data shows a steady rise in activity. Though registrations for applications and sales enquiries both showed a modest decline, down by two percent week-on-week, properties registered for sale recorded a steady gain, up five percent week-on-week.

Viewings booked

A similar increase was seen in viewings booked, up by four percent and now just three percent off pre-lockdown levels for the property market.

Sales offers also continued to climb, with a healthy 11 percent gain as active viewers convert to potential buyers, making offers on their chosen properties.

Data from conveyancers confirms the gains with quotations rising by 50 percent and well above pre-Lockdown volumes, with the number of activations now close to “normal” levels.

At the end of the property market pipeline, exchanges saw an increase of six percent week-on-week, though with sales completions were down by five percent.

The report concludes: “The continuation of the upward trend in the UK property market has brought volumes almost back to pre-Lockdown levels, and the market is well-placed to return to normal.”

Search Acumen’s property data tracker showed that just 82,385 completed transactions were registered in England and Wales during the second quarter of 2020, down by 65 percent from the first quarter, and the first time on record that quarterly property market transactions fell below 100,000.

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Transactions registered

April saw just 440 transactions registered, less than one percent of the 55,381 total in March, as the impact of lockdown made itself felt across the market.

The recovery started in May with 25,459 registrations, followed by 56,486 recorded in June, rising back above the pre-lockdown figure of 55,381 from March.

Andy Sommerville, director of Search Acumen, said: “As suspected, the second quarterly figures have demonstrated the challenges that conveyancers and much of the property market have been tasked with navigating under COVID-19.

“May saw the full force of the pandemic’s impact in terms of significant drops in the number of transactions and active firms, but the June data highlights some positive signs of the market coming back to life. The market has since been bolstered in July by the government’s Stamp Duty holiday which should help to propel activity for the second half of the year.

“While the figures for the second quarter were largely gloomy, there are some important lessons to learn from. We saw many firms adapt to new, digital ways of working under lockdown in order to maintain some level of activity. Now that some demand has returned to the market, it is time for all firms to act and harness the available data and latest innovations once and for all.

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“We have started to see indications that the market has accepted the reality that digitisation is the way forward for the industry. The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s (MHCLG) bid to modernise England’s planning sector is just one such sign. The government is waking up to the fact that an over-reliance on manual tasks and in-person activity has gone on for far too long.

Accurate data

“It is not just up to the government to enact change. Instead, the private sector must work hand in hand with local and national public bodies to forge a property market strong enough to bolster the UK’s economy as we emerge from COVID-19.

“We have long called for collaboration around the increased availability of accurate data, the importance of integrating the latest technologies including AI and blockchain into property processes and ensuring that people are well versed in these innovations to best leverage the data at our fingertips. This is not only what the property market needs to be more efficient, productive and to better serve clients but is equally crucial for the country to bounce back post-COVID.”

Industry experts have also noted a resumption in work on building projects. Richard Lawson, sales director for Barratt Homes South Wales said: “As Covid-19 took hold, and the subsequent lockdown, building projects across the whole country slowed down. However, as it is now safe to do so, building has recommenced full-throttle to ensure these much-needed new homes are built.”

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Construction resumed

Barratt Homes has resumed construction at the Hanbury Locks site in Cwmbran, the newly-launched Brunel Quarter site in Chepstow, the Waterside at the Quays in Barry and Chapel Fields in Loughor, near Swansea.

While industry reports suggest that the UK property market is approaching pre-lockdown levels, as the conveyancing market saw a recovery in May and June, there’s still some way to go before the property market returns to normal.

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