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How will the lockdown impact buyer behaviour?

How will the lockdown impact buyer behaviour?

Market Reports GPEA 23rd April 2020

Will COVID-19 and the continuing lockdown have an impact on property market trends moving forward or could we see the housing market pick up where it left off? With the lockdown restricting movement and most people spending most of their day in their homes, are we likely to see buyers and tenants’ priorities change when looking for a new property? 

Here are comments from some Members of The Guild of Property Professionals:

Associate at Watsons Property in Norwich, Ian Harris, says: “Judging from the conversations we have been having with people, priorities are definitely changing. Many office workers are beginning to enjoy working at home and I can’t imagine anyone is really missing rush hour.  Previously, some will have moved close to the office to cut down the daily commute but working from home could make that moving decision void.  If working from home continues after the lockdown, people may have a different set of priorities, such as a greener environment, a garden, more floor-space, and different recreational opportunities to gyms and bars; but they will need fast broadband!  Workspace and a decent internet connection seem to be the main impediments to working well at home.”

Could we see buyers moving away from cities in search of larger homes? 

According to Birmingham based Philip Jackson, Director of Maguire Jackson, recent evidence based on the daily enquiries suggest vendors and tenants have used this period to look at their current homes and consider their options going forward. “While the attractions of village or more rural housing is obvious in the sunshine, the reality of being locked away from the convenience of easily walkable good shopping has also been exasperating for others, especially those with full houses of family during this time. We have not seen evidence of current city centre vendors looking to move out of the city, but we have seen buyers looking for other apartments, be it with bigger reception rooms, better balconies and terraces or better locations.”

Director of Sawdye & Harris, Katie Griffin, says that she believes there is likely to be a tempered exodus from cities and in particular London where the drawn for space and lifestyle will be at the forefront as we ease out of lockdown. “However, the best employment prospects are often to be found in the capital and the South East but there has always been a constant lifestyle migration into the South West,” she adds.

Kieran Ryan, Managing Director of Rickman Properties in London, says: “During lock down, we can’t help thinking about people living in the capital without any outside space. No one ever dreamed that this pandemic would ever happen. In London, there was always so much to do, even in bad weather. The kudos of saying you live in London, may now have waned as the statistics of catching the virus in London have been high. However, if someone is thinking of moving out of London, there are a lot of aspects to consider, such as the time spent commuting, the extra cost versus a cheaper property and the lifestyle change, to name a few. I certainly think the jury will be out after all this. A complete lifestyle change would suit some, but in our experience, some live to regret this and as the saying goes ‘once you move out of London, you can never get back’ as you get priced out of the market fairly quickly.”

Jackson weighs in again saying many of those looking at properties in city centres do so only as part of the overall package of city living. “This means safe easy access to good restaurants, bars, coffee houses, as well as gyms, yoga studios, delis and supermarkets. Social distancing is being acknowledged as an inconvenience, but it is not anticipated to run forever, and people are making decisions based on their position certainly six months or more ahead when they will certainly be able to take advantage of the facilities close to hand.”

Will we see people more or less likely to let go of the family home and downsize to cut their overheads?

“We don’t think downsizing will be a big issue because of the pandemic,” says Ryan. “We are all hoping that this is a ‘once in a lifetime’ issue. Downsizing has its own problems and people sometimes forget that it can be expensive as often their furniture rarely fits into a smaller home and they have to buy all new. Downsizing has its own reasons and I don’t think this will take off.”

Jackson adds: “We have seen continuing evidence of downsizing from those typical older owners in larger houses. The upkeep of both the gardens, especially with some garden help services being unavailable, and the realisation of the amount of work needed plus ongoing redecoration required has highlighted the time and costs of upkeep for some. As a result, many are looking at newer town houses and good city apartments, ideally those overlooking the canal or open space.”

Griffin believes that rather than downsizing, we could see many deciding they want larger homes. “Maybe this will further influence employers to be more flexible with their work arrangements and as direct consequence lead to an increase in demand for upsizing in the employed sector.  After all there have been many people during this lockdown who have had to operate their workplace from the dining room, kitchen or spare room and realise that this hasn’t quite worked but they have enjoyed the flexibility of homeworking.”  

Any other trends we may see develop?

Harris says that people are really missing social contact now that it has been taken away. “We could see families who are spread across the country wanting to move closer to each other, especially for the sake of elderly family members,” he notes.

According to Jackson, the lockdown may make some people living with others realise the need of their own property. “For younger couples, perhaps those living with parents, the lock-in has highlighted the demand for their own space, whether rented or bought. We are anticipating pressure from first time buyers and new tenants once this lock down is eased.”

Ryan adds that more so than ever before gardens and outside space will be a premium for a lot of potential property buyers in London.

“It is difficult to assess whether this will really change the way people live and the way people think but there are likely to be some interesting times ahead and we are likely to come back with a bounce as pent up demand has built considerably during the last few weeks,” Griffin concludes. 

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