The property market here in Scotland is set to stay on hold for another few weeks, despite restrictions being lifted in England.
How will the ease of restrictions in England affect the property market and could we learn lessons here in Scotland about how to proceed when we are able?
In England, employees who cannot work from home are being encouraged to return to workplaces albeit they need avoid public transport if possible. They are also allowed to spend more time outside (as are we here in Scotland) but are able to travel further afield from their homes in their cars. In addition, estate agents have been permitted to open up for business.
The immediate result was that on Wednesday morning between 7am and 8am Rightmove reported a 45% rise in online property viewings compared to the previous day. In addition, over 2,000 properties were listed for sale on the property portal.
At present, it remains unclear when viewings and new instructions will be able to start again in Scotland but there have been some potential benefits of the lock down to the property market over the last few months.
People have been allowed to spend time walking or cycling locally which has given them a feel for the area and to see streets and pockets that they may not be familiar with. Now that people can go out further afield in England, they have further opportunity to scope out areas of interest more easily. In addition, they can check out the outside of properties that they could previously only view online.
Under current government guidelines, people have been asked to delay property transactions until after social distancing measures have been lifted. However, if the property is empty there is no reason that you can’t continue with the purchase. Many buyers and sellers are renegotiating on timescales with the sale still set to go ahead.
With many estate agents working from home and continuing to value properties and market existing homes, many have turned to virtual viewings to enable people to see homes during the lock down. Although they cannot visit homes to take photographs, conduct appraisals for new listings or show prospective buyers around a property they have been able to use the Internet to still promote property that are either currently online or coming soon.
Some agents use 3D cameras that allow browsers to take a self-guided tour of a property and others have used videos taken by the vendors – and with many people using high quality mobile phones with video capability, this has been made even more possible.
The ‘new normal’
Even when things ‘return to normal’, the property market and the way that agents conduct viewings could look quite different.
Buyers are likely to be more heavily vetted to minimise speculative viewings with only serious buyers permitted to enter homes. They will have to adhere to stringent hygiene guidelines and will be unable to open doors and cupboards as part of the viewing process to minimise touching surfaces. When they do view a house, they will have to remain 2m away from the estate agent at all times and children won’t be permitted to accompany parents on viewings. Owners will need to vacate the property and buyers will be encouraged to avoid second and third viewings before making an offer.
Stamp Duty (LBTT)
Although there is evidence that there has been pent up demand from buyers, The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and The The National Association of Estate Agents have called for a stamp duty to kick start the market. This would boost confidence and encourage housing growth for the remainder of this year.
We will be closely watching how the property and mortgage markets perform in England. Contact us if you would like help with your mortgage needs – we are still working remotely.