Whilst the current Covid-19 crisis (and economic downturn) is resulting in uncertainty across much across the UK, the housing market remains steady. Aside from the first lockdown Estate agents remain open and, boosted by the Government stamp duty holiday on purchases up to £500,000, confidence is slowly returning to buyers and sellers.
But how has a pandemic affected the process? Here is what home buying and selling during 2021 looks like.
Things got competitive.
Priorities have changed because of the pandemic. For us with a young family, we have no garden in our current home so focused on finding a property with outside space and relocating to an area nearer family support was key. Many living in cities have considered moving to more rural areas. The rental market is overcrowded which means more First Time Buyers (though higher deposits and tougher mortgage regulations have made buying harder for FTB’s). We, like many, also wanted to take advantage of the low mortgage rates.
In the region we were looking to move to a new house, prices boomed after a Times’s article cited it one of the places least affected by Covid-19. Bad timing (get it). Houses were coming onto the market and being sold with multiple offers within a week. Prices were inflated which we were not expecting. A quick search on a Zoopla should give you some clues and give you an appreciation of what you can now get for your money.
Listing activity has been affected, I did notice less properties for sale likely because of concerns over the virus and fears of recession. We still wanted to push on with our sale/buy as governments are working to ensure the ongoing exchange of houses to keep the market moving. Some people’s financial situations are unchanged, but others drastically are, so that will have a knock-on lasting effect on the market in the future.
A focus online.
In normal circumstances, selling a house involves interacting with a lot of people. Over the last year (plus), we have all adapted to new guidance to keep us safe. Even now Estate Agent offices are still closed for face-to-face appointments. More than ever, you need to have trust in the agent, not only did we look at fees, who is dominating the local market but also how many online platforms such as Rightmove, they list a property to and what Covid-19 measures they put in place. I prefer local agents for reputation and communication as you get to talk to an actual person, rather than app. That said, this Estate Agent comparison table compares all the main online providers, from PurpleBricks to YOPA so you can choose the right package for your house sale if you are selling on a budget.
Virtual viewings and video appointments have been essential during the pandemic. Presenting your home in its best light online was more important than ever during the pandemic, when in-person open houses were limited. We found a lot of sellers would not accept viewings unless you had accepted an offer on your own property. Although social distancing is in place Government guidelines mean that people CAN physically visit your home by appointment only (for valuations and viewings) in the lead up to your home move; but masks are required, no more than two households are allowed inside a property at one time, and they will need to observe the 2-meter distance, avoid touching surfaces and internal doors/cupboards should be left open as well as windows for ventilation. We were worried at first with viewings and tended to wipe down surfaces after potential buyers had visited.
With people trying to squeeze in purchases and sales before the stamp duty holiday and people working from home, everything is taking longer. Many lenders and brokers are experiencing Covid-19 related delays, so do your homework before applying – use a calculator to estimate mortgage affordability based on income to get a better idea of if you can afford the property. For second time buyers like us there is also a remortage calculator – check to see if you could lessen your monthly payments. This time round we used a financial adviser to help get the best deal and it made the process much quicker.
If you are selling, before you list your property have all the paperwork ready (boiler service reports etc) and have conveyancer quotes ready and check their availability due to demand for service. When buying, surveyors are currently booking up to six or seven weeks in advance to inspect homes. Call one as soon as your offer is accepted! Quotes for professional removals are high and some have amended policies and encourage you do as much as the packing yourself. We have decided to rent a van as then there is less likelihood of cancellation.
There is also a greater risk that parties may need to delay because someone is showing symptoms of coronavirus or self-isolating. (Your conveyancer will be able to make sure that any contracts or agreements are as flexible as possible to accommodate this risk.)
Is anyone else trying to move at the moment? Have you got any tips or found anything especially challenging?