Busiest day since start of lockdown as market reopens in England

Throughout lockdown our homes have never been more important, and perhaps it’s even made you rethink what you’re looking for in a home.

When the surprise announcement came on Wednesday that the market was open again in England it led to a surge in interest on Rightmove.

On the first day of reopening (13th May), the number of home-movers visiting Rightmove returned to pre-lockdown daily levels, and was up 4% on the same Wednesday in 2019.

This is great news for those of you who can now continue with delayed moves, as well as the wider UK economy, but it’s crucially important that we all follow the government’s Covid-19 safety guidelines.

What are the headline figures?

This week we’ve seen a big shift in momentum. Here’s what we found:

  • A fresh supply of homes for sale with a 111% week-on-week increase in new sales listings on day the market reopened
  • Demand from buyers (unique enquiries) doubled from Tuesday to Wednesday, and was only 10% behind the same day in 2019
  • Rental demand is also on the up, with unique enquiries at their highest level in one day since September 2019

What are the experts saying?

Our resident property expert Miles Shipside, one of our founding directors and a BBC News regular, explained that the market is gearing up for a recovery but it will take time as safety needs to be the priority.

He said: “Unique enquiries on property for sale doubled from the day before, though we expect consistent momentum to rebuild over several months rather than weeks. With no new seller asking price data it’s too early to comment on price movements, though high demand is needed to support a stable market.

If there are attractive lower deposit mortgages available it would help sustain the recovery in activity. The industry has been caught by surprise, as we were all expecting the housing market to stay closed until at least June.

“High demand could lead to a boost in values for properties that offer inspiring home-working options. But on the other hand, the extra value for a property being close to a popular commuter route may diminish if working from home becomes the new norm.

“We already saw some early signs of people enquiring more about out-of-city areas so it will be interesting to see if this leads to a change in where people choose to buy now the market has been unlocked.”

How will viewings and home moves work in practice?

To control the spread of the virus, the government has produced housing-sector guidelines including stringent social distancing measures.

As these are the new norm, home-movers and estate agents need to immediately adapt to the biggest ever changes in the way that homes are marketed and viewed.

The new guidelines encourage online viewings where possible, and so with more up-front information on property details more time on physical viewings will likely concentrate on the property’s features and condition.

These guidelines are understandably stringent as they are there for everyone’s safety, and it’s especially important for the recovery of the market that prospective buyers and existing and future sellers feel absolutely safe to re-engage with their pent-up housing needs.

All parties will have to be innovative to work within these guidelines where practical, and put safety first in any grey areas that are not covered by the guidelines.

Technological solutions will not suit every situation or every individual so there will need to be other options which still comply with strict social distancing.

To view May’s House Price Index in full, click here.

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