When did our first “Lockdown” hit? Well it was over 200 days before I started writing this article. It seems more like 200 years actually. When lockdown hit property purchase and sale transactions stopped, pretty well overnight. Even transactions which were fully underway couldn’t get finished because the Land Register closed. And you couldn’t even start to sell a property as you were not allowed to visit it to value it or prepare a schedule for sale. Even if you could have done that nothing could have been done marketing wise as viewings were not allowed. It was a very odd and weird environment and it seemed as if it would go on forever. We had to politely decline when clients wanted to get transactions underway. These were pretty dismal times for estate agents, solicitors, but most of all for members of the public who wanted to buy or sell. Everyone was stuck in limbo and the property market was completely becalmed.
So we all sort of got used to “dead slow and stop” for weeks on end. Then in June we were allowed gently to re-open the market – provided all necessary anti Covid precautions were taken. Only a few agents re opened their offices at first, and even then moves to get things going again were careful and measured. It took a bit of time to get used to the new anti Covid arrangements for both clients and agents alike.
However – the “phoney war” didn’t last long. Once the public realised they could get back into the market …………… well in no time everything went a bit mad! Nicky Kelly Senior Sales Controller commented “Having been unable to allow viewings for weeks, suddenly we were completely inundated with folk desperate to see houses. And they were serious buyers too – with offers for houses soon arriving in volume. We have been fixing closing dates all over the place – many for houses which probably would not have attracted more than one offer before the pandemic. I’m not quite sure why things turned out this way – but happy sellers aren’t bothered to find out! There will still be the odd house which sticks, but usually there is a reason for that – but they are in the minority.”
In a market like this however not everyone gets what they want – and sadly some buyers end up disappointed. Graham Irvine head of Conveyancing at Caesar and Howie explains the difficulties. “The way it has been recently – you can forget buying at near or just over the Home Report value. When confidence is high like this many buyers seem to find extra money and there is pretty well no chance of getting the bargains you can sometimes get when the market is quiet. Sadly, no matter how far buyers stretch themselves some just miss out – and it is tough for folk when that happens.”
As to the future – Graham feels a slowdown really must come. “The First Home Fund has temporarily run out of money – so that will take some first-time buyers out of the market for a bit. If redundancies increase after the furlough scheme ends, that will impact too. So, I just can’t see the market remaining overheated like this towards the year end. Mind you, after what we have just experienced – it’s a bit of a mug’s game to predict the future”