This week has provided the property market with news. As long as done safely and following social distancing the property market can essentially reopen.
So what has changed?
In a nutshell, whilst ensuring all safety precautions are taken, the following:
- Estate agents can open their offices to the general public.
- Viewings of properties can take place with the first to be an online viewing.
- Surveyors can attend properties to do mortgage valuations and surveys.
- Removal companies can reopen.
All the above has allowed the market to fully reopen. Therefore those who are keen to proceed with their transactions can now do so and clients in chains where there are clinically extremely vulnerable persons can continue to be patient while we work hard to keep these chains together and complete when these transactions can safely be done.
This change in the guidance allows clients who want to proceed to buy or sell to have more confidence to push forwards, whilst taking the required safety precautions.
How can Morrish Solicitors help?
Where possible and safe to do so during the lockdown we have managed to complete certain transactions for our client, usually single sales or purchases where properties are empty. One client completed, but was able to leave the property empty for a week, ensuring the virus would have died on any surfaces, before moving in. Others have hired vans and moved their belongings themselves. For purchases, where in most cases you would pick up the keys to your new home from the estate agents, keys have been left in safety deposit boxes and other secure post boxes to stick to the social distancing guidelines.
Since lockdown began we’ve continued to press forwards with all our files. Whilst not business as usual, we’ve put in place procedures to allow those who wanted to, and fulfilled the existing guidance at the time to push exchange and complete.
When not safe to do so we have been able to push forward with transactions to the point of being ready to exchange so when the time is appropriate completion can take place.
One of our fundamental goals when lockdown occurred was “business as usual”. Whilst accepting that none of what is going on is “usual” we wanted to make sure of the following:
- Clients would continue to receive excellent service from us with staff working from home.
- Processes be put in place to ensure the smooth running of files. This has often meant the transportation of files and members of staff attending the office outside of work hours to pick up work.
- A reduced staff presence in the offices to deal with post and ensure that phone calls into the offices are dealt with appropriately, whilst being able to adhere to social distancing requirements.
All this has put us in a strong position once lockdown was lifted as there was no backlog of work. All files have been kept up to date and processed as far as possible during the lockdown period. We are ready to move forward with existing files and new instructions with confidence.
Since the restrictions have lifted
There has been the anticipation by many that the housing market would come roaring back to life as soon as lockdown ends, with potentially a few more houses up for sale, as large families find their homes may not be quite big enough when you’re in them for 23 hours of the day and others finding that good wi-fi connections and a home office have become fundamental.
In the couple of days since lockdown has been lifted we have seen a significant uplift in the number of transactions that were on temporary hold now progressing. In addition new instructions have started to flow in again.
Having spoken to estate agents we work with they have all confirmed a huge influx of viewing being booked with one stating
“I have spoken to every vendor on our books and the vast majority are happy for people to come round for viewings. There are lots of new enquiries. I have booked over 30 viewings in the last 2 days.”
The mortgage market
Since the market has reopened fully we have also spoken to mortgage brokers that we deal with and new enquiries for mortgages are flowing in and the backlog of mortgage valuations are now being arranged.
At the start of lockdown some lenders pulled a lot of their high loan to ratio products and would only lend to those with large deposits, but now larger lenders are bringing these products back. After the initial shock lenders are adapting to the change and being more flexible once again. By increasing loan sizes and cutting product fees, they’re giving borrowers more choice again and helping stabilise the market.
For new mortgages or remortgages, lenders will want to know if your income has reduced as a result of COVID-19, but they’re not automatically being turned down.
On a positive front, while fixed rates are still at an all time low and the base rate is almost zero, there continues to be flexibility and good deals available for borrowers.
What’s to come?
Whilst there are concerns that the market will be hit and prices fall there have been other indicators that although there may be a short term drop in prices, they are likely to quickly bounce back.
According to analysis by global consultancy Knight Frank it’s predicted house prices will only fall by around 3% and then bounce back again in 2021.