There has been a 70% surge in enquiries to estate agents following the government’s announcement that house viewings and sales can be resumed.
Britain’s housing market has been in suspended animation for seven weeks under the coronavirus lockdown restrictions. No visitors were allowed into properties including estate agents, surveyors and potential buyers.
Now the restrictions have been lifted as the government starts to open up the economy again. Online property portal Zoopla estimated that 373,000 transactions worth £82 billion were on hold, but now the market is re-opened and the Rightmove website saw a 70% increase in traffic with 2,115 new properties being listed in just five hours.
Spokesman Miles Shipside said: “These are clear signs that the news from the government has prompted more home-hunters to start looking for their next home, and we anticipate further uplift in activity once agents have time to adjust to the new social distancing guidance specific to the home moving sector.
“Home movers who have been eagerly waiting to take their plans to the next stage should show some patience with agents given the unexpected announcement, to ensure there’s time to adapt to the new guidelines and ensure everyone is kept safe.”
David Westgate is group chief executive or Andrews, a property group with 48 offices in the south of England. He said: “There is a lot of talk that values will be hit hard in the months ahead and, while that may apply to some areas where job losses are sadly high, we believe the sales market overall will hold up well and that average prices will even be slightly up this time next year.”
Estate agency teams and builders across the country are rushing to get their staff back from furlough and up to speed with the social distancing rules so they can start selling as soon as possible.
Taylor Wimpey is one of the country’s top housebuilders and chief executive Pete Redfern said its show houses would be open as soon as its staff had learned the new protocols.
“We see lots of positive signs but it’s still early days,” he said.
But a survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) predicted it would be nine months before sales had rebounded to pre-lockdown levels.
Southampton estate agent Peter Jones was one of those spoken to and he said: “The prime selling period is disrupted and even a small recovery is likely to be delayed until February or March 2021.
“I do not anticipate hitting pre-coronavirus prices until Easter 2021 at the earliest. Availability of personal credit and mortgage finance will be key.”