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Coronavirus Mortgages

Spike in Housing Market Activity Suggests Return to Normality

With the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak seemingly behind us, the UK economy is slowly beginning to show signs of a gradual return to normality. The housing market has seen a tremendous spike in activity over the past few days, as movers and renters seek to make the most on the easing of lockdown restrictions.

With millions known to have put their relocation plans on hold when the coronavirus crisis took hold, a predicted wave of pent-up demand is now set to be released across the country.

Since the housing market was officially reopened by the UK government buyers and renters are now allowed to both view properties and move for the first time since lockdown was enforced. Surveyors and estate agents are also allowed to resume their normal activities, though strict social distancing rules still apply.

All of which has resulted in a 4% increase in visits to Rightmove’s website year-on-year – an impressive 5.1 million visits being recorded by the online estate agent. Importantly, Rightmove stated that sales enquiries are now back to around 90% normal levels, suggesting it is not far to go before the housing market returns to normality. Work out how much it would cost you to purchase a home using our UK mortgage calculator.

Property Listings Also on the Up

While the number of properties being listed on the Rightmove website is still way below normal levels, this week saw the number of new homes listed increase two-fold from last week. The current listing rate is still approximately 90% lower than it would normally be, though these initial signs of forward movement are being welcomed by experts across the sector.

“The traditionally busy spring market was curtailed by lockdown, but we’re now seeing clear signs of returning momentum, with the existing desire to move now being supplemented by some people’s unhappiness with their lockdown home and surroundings,” Rightmove director Miles Shipside said in an interview with the telegraph.

“With no new seller asking price data it is 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.”

Global head of research at Knight Frank, Liam Bailey, warned that economic growth in general will be sluggish for the year, with the estate agent having predicted average property price decreases of between 5% and 7% by the time the year is out.

However, most of the decline already occurred in the period between March and May, the company reported.

“We can be fairly certain that this year we will see one of the sharpest falls in economic growth in peacetime,” said Mr. Bailey.

“It is challenging to get a handle on what is happening to pricing right now. Published indices tend to be backward looking, and those that have been published since the crisis began have inevitably drawn on limited datapoints.”

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Coronavirus

UK Housing Market Sees Upswing as Lockdown Restrictions Start to be Lifted

The number of enquiries at one of the country’s biggest real estate agencies peaked last week as buyers came out of lockdown.

Across its more than 100 offices, Savills observed a 30% surge in interest in new homes compared to last year.

Sales figures doubled post-lockdown, though were still below the normal daily average of 4000 home sales in the UK which amounts to nearly 1.2 million per year.

The online marketplace, Rightmove, recorded 5.2 million visits on Wednesday, which is 4% up from last year, while London agencies reported increases in sale instruction of up to 255%.

The positive effect swept the entire sector, resulting in the sale of 906 homes on Wednesday, with a further 1883 properties listed for sale, according to home market specialist View My Chain.

Rural homes are receiving the bulk of the interest which is focused on properties in Hampshire, Yorkshire and on the South coast.

‘Offices outside main cities are getting more interest than city offices’, says Savills’ expert Andrew Parratt, who is heading the company’s country division. ‘It appears that during the lockdown people are re-assessing how much they need to be in cities.’

Zoopla reports that nearly 400,000 property sales were on hold during lockdown. The market officially re-opened with a bang on Wednesday, but it did so with strict anti-Covid-19 measures in place.

According to CEO Mark Hayward, the National Association of Estate Agents sent out guidelines to its thousands of members.

Mr Hayward called it a “new way of working”.

‘Owner, agent and consumer will have to adopt social distancing and if necessary, wear masks and gloves. Viewers will not be encouraged to spend a huge amount of time at the property, 15 to 20 minutes is recommended.

‘Only people from a single household can view a property, there are no multiple viewings and you can’t bring friends or family from outside your home. The number of people will be kept to a minimum, we’d recommend two.’

He also advised against bringing children as the instructions are to not touch anything.

‘Door handles must be sterile, as will any surfaces, and will have to be re-done between each viewing.

‘An interested party can’t get out of their car until a previous viewer has left, they will have to wear gloves and a mask. Ideally, sellers need to be out of the property, whether in the garden, or sitting in their car or an outside garage.’

Andrew Gorcock from Knight Frank estate agency said: ‘All of our offices will have staff working in them from Monday, but the doors will remain locked.

‘Our negotiators will be wearing masks and taking masks and gloves for viewers and there will be no physical brochures.’

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Coronavirus

Moving House Permitted Once Again as Lockdown Restrictions Eased

In a pivotal move by the UK government to gradually restart both the housing market and the economy, buyers and renters across England are now able to move house once again.

Estate agents can reopen their offices, physical viewings of properties can be carried out, conveyancers can conduct property inspections and removal firms can offer their services. All of which is likely to come as welcome news to the estimated 450,000 buyers and renters, for whom their intended relocations were put on hold when lockdown was enforced.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has emphasised the point that all existing safety and social distancing rules must be obeyed.

“Our clear plan will enable people to move home safely, covering each aspect of the sales and letting process, from viewings to removals,” he said.

“This critical industry can now safely move forward, and those waiting patiently to move can now do so.”

For the time being, however, no such relaxations have been brought into force in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales. Lockdown rules and regulations remain unchanged, making physical viewings, property valuations and most estate agent office consultations impossible.

A Bounce Back to Strength Ahead?

Some of the more conservative economists and real estate specialists see something of a gradual return to stability over many months and years to come.  For others, the effects of lockdown will do little other than encourage a raft of would-be movers across the UK to relocate to new properties and locations.

“Few things are more likely to make people want to move than being cooped up in the same four walls for weeks on end, and property portals have seen traffic increase by up to a fifth,” commented Jonathan Hopper of Garrington Property Finders.

Mr Hopper’s sentiments are echoed by many experts across the industry, who believe that a potential avalanche of pent-up demand among both renters and buyers alike is about to be released.

Social Distancing Measures Remain Mandatory

Exactly how the logistics of the whole thing will work remains to be seen, with Public Health England having advised that all current social distancing measures remain mandatory for those involved. This means remaining at least two metres from those you come into contact with and self-isolating for the appropriate period upon experiencing even minor Covid-19 symptoms.

This is likely to cause complications with conveyancing and property visits, which often take place when the current occupants or tenants are still at home.

Either way, the gradual reopening of the housing sector represents the forward movement estate agents have been waiting for, given the estimated £82bn of housing transactions put on hold during lockdown.

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Coronavirus

UK Property Prices See Only Modest Declines for March/April 2020

A sluggish performance was the only realistic expectation for the UK housing market throughout the lockdown period. A gradual or sudden spike in property prices was never going to happen while the market was at a standstill, paving the way for doomsday predictions for average house prices for the period.

Some of these negative predictions however may well have proved to be wildly exaggerated, as the latest figures indicate only a slight dip in property values between March and April despite having been predicted to plummet by 10% or more.

Data from Halifax’s house price index showed only a 0.6% month-on-month drop in prices.  This means that the average property sold for the March/April period was valued at £238,500, significantly higher than predicted during the early period of the lockdown. More importantly, average house prices (according to the same index) are still up 2.7% compared to the same period last year.

The market may have come to a temporary lowdown due to the coronavirus outbreak, but the figures suggest a pause, as opposed to a complete shutdown.

Government Restrictions and Recommendations

Along with the obvious financial implications of the Covid-19 lockdown, housing market activity was further slowed by official government warnings against in-person valuations, viewings and all nonessential house moves.

As a result, many thousands who were considering relocation chose to wait it out, despite having no idea what may become of their home’s value in the meantime.

If the latest figures are anything to go by, it may not be quite as gloomy a picture as expected. Not only have average property prices dipped only fractionally, but a halt in accelerated property price hikes in many regions could be exactly what some prospective buyers were hoping for.

A Gradual Return to Normal

The Bank of England shares the sentiments of many estate agents and economists, who believe that the easing of lockdown restrictions will lead to a gradual return to normality for both the economy and the housing market.

“After falling, prices are then assumed to rise gradually as economic activity in the UK recovers and unemployment falls,” read an extract of a report from the Bank of England.

Speaking on behalf of James Pendleton estate agents, Lucy Pendleton likewise painted a positive picture for the return of strength and stability to the housing market.

“A bullish picture going into this crisis actually means we are likely to see healthy prices when we return,” she said.

“There will be a period in which vendors test the water, but you can expect them to stand behind valuations they were confident of achieving before the lockdown began. That will be especially true in the capital,”

“There have been a small number of buyers seeking price reductions, but these have been minor skirmishes prompted by opportunists rather than any reaction to the economic realities being faced by vendors”.

Just this week, the UK government has issued new guidance for prospective movers in England, who will be once again permitted to relocate, subject to ongoing restrictions on close contact with other people involved in the process.

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Coronavirus

Government Outlines Basic Framework for Restarting UK Economy

The UK Government has begun the process of restarting the economy, having outlined several lockdown relaxations to be introduced over the coming weeks.

Businesses, trade bodies, unions and workers representatives have all been invited to submit their input and ideas as to how the economy should be restarted in the safest and most manageable way.

Dates have yet to be confirmed for all areas as to when the official restart will commence, though it is widely expected that the staggered ‘back to work’ plan will be divided by working environment.

Specifically, business groups and unions have been asked for their feedback across seven areas of industry:

  • Outdoor work – including agriculture, construction, and energy
  • Non-food retail – high street
  • Transport and logistics
  • Manufacturing – including food processing and engineering
  • Indoor work – offices, laboratories, central call facility services
  • Work in the home – plumbers, painters & decorators, care sector
  • Hospitality and leisure – pubs, clubs, restaurants, cinemas, theatres

In the government’s most recent statement regarding the relaxation of lockdown in England, it was stated that anyone who can work from home should continue to do so. Those unable or who have difficulty in working from home were advised to return to work provided their place of work could be ‘Covid-19 secure’ and that government guidelines were being followed.

Reopening Businesses Safely

Safety remains the primary concern for most businesses and unions across the UK. Restarting the economy and reopening thousands of businesses would inevitably lead to difficulties in complying with current social distancing and general Covid-19 safety guidelines and many adaptions and alterations to working environments are taking place throughout the nation.

In some sectors such as hospitality, business owners and proprietors have suggested that reopening while current social distancing rules apply could be potentially more difficult however in most arenas alterations are in process or have already been made.

There is some indication that the principles imposed as part of the economic restart plan would not require certain workers to observe the rules on social distancing, but instead additional tools provided by way of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves, protective eyewear & protective screens etc. would possibly be a suitable alternative .

In any case, the use of such PPE in some areas of commercial, industrial and hospitality environments would likely prove impractical.

Gauging Demand Post-Lockdown

The point has also been raised that it remains unclear as to how much demand there will be for the products and services provided by some businesses reopening throughout the economic recovery plan. Examples of which include car showrooms and factories, which may once again commence sales but are unlikely to immediately attract the same amount of business as they would normally in the run up to summer.

Likewise, there may also be workers who simply refuse point blank to return to work in the absence of health and safety guarantees, which for the time being most employers simply cannot 100% provide.

Closing the UK economy in its entirety was one of the biggest challenge’s lockdown brought about.  Restarting it again could prove just as tricky for the UK government but there is a growing drive from many industries to make this happen and as quickly as possible.

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Coronavirus

Yes, You Can Move to a New House & Here Are the Facts You Need

If you have been putting off a potential move, you are far from alone. According to recent figures, it is estimated that around 450,000 buyers and renters in England alone have put their plans on hold due to lockdown restrictions.

With the gradual easing across England, many are expecting a wave of demand from tens of thousands of frustrated movers, however, social distancing and general safety measures remain unchanged, meaning the implementation of new systems and procedures, to make it all possible.

Below, you will find key questions being asked about moving to a new house in England, none of which yet apply to the property markets of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, all of which remain closed:

How Can I View a Property and Social Distance?

All initial property viewings will take place online, along with remote discussions with the estate agent and representatives. In-person viewings will be possible after the ‘virtual viewings’, during which social distancing rules must me followed. For example, the current residents of the property, if possible, should leave for the duration of the viewing, all internal doors should be kept open and visitors are advised to bring their own hand wash.

The estate or letting agent must also stay 2m (6ft) away from clients during the viewing.

Can I Be Evicted by My Landlord?

Existing protections for renters remain unchanged for the time being, meaning that it is impossible for landlords to begin the eviction process without first providing three months’ notice. This is set to continue until September 30, though may change in the meantime.

In addition, landlords are now allowed to show prospective tenants around their properties, provided social distancing rules are followed.

What About Moving in With Somebody New?

This is one of the few exceptions to the government’s restrictions on how many people can currently meet from two or more households. If your intention is to move in with your partner or perhaps rent a property with new housemates, you are now entitled to do so with no specific restrictions.

The government simply states that if anyone in either household is displaying any signs or symptoms of Covid-19, they and all members of their household should self-isolate for the required period, prior to the move going ahead.

Can I Hire a Removals Company?

Yes, removal companies have once again been permitted to operate and can therefore help transport belongings for home buyers and renters. All social distancing rules and guidelines continue to apply, which means they should not come into close contact with you or anyone else during the process.

Additional safety guidelines include ensuring your belongings are cleaned before allowing the movers to handle them, providing washing facilities for the removals team, and not offering refreshments.

How Will All of This Affect House Prices?

It remains to be seen, but Covid-19’s impact on average property prices has so far been significantly lower than expected. In fact, it is estimated that house prices on average dipped by a fractional 0.6% between March and April, coming out 2.7% better than the same period last year.

Pent-up interest among renters and buyers could trigger an enormous spike in real estate activity over the months following the easing of lockdown restrictions, so while it’s perfectly possible that property prices may see a short-term fall, prominent economists and experts expect them to recover and return to strength just as quickly.

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Coronavirus Mortgages

Mortgage Deals Show Signs of Life as Lender Restrictions Relax

The past month or so brought little other than doom and gloom for prospective
homebuyers across the UK. As of this week, it seems there is finally light at the
end of the tunnel for British borrowers on the lookout for a competitive home
loan.

As a knock-on effect of the coronavirus lockdown, many of the UK’s biggest
lenders had previously scrapped many deals aimed at first-time buyers and
those with minimal equity in their current properties. Examples of which
included Nationwide, Halifax, Santander and Virgin, who were asking for
deposits of at least 40% from all home loan applicants.

Today, the Halifax announced that its maximum loan-to-value (LTV) would
once again be increased to 85%. Nationwide likewise announced a resumption
of 85% LTV mortgages, while Virgin Money reintroduced purchase mortgages
to its portfolio.

At Santander, fees and charges on residential mortgages have been significantly
reduced, while maximum loan sizes have been increased once again from
£300,000 to £500,000.

Experts have commented that lenders are showing signs of adapting to current
pressures, rather than cutting themselves off from the consumer market. Work
out how much a  mortgage would cost you using our Mortgage calculator UK.

Initial Restrictions Cautiously Relaxed

As the UK was forced into mandatory lockdown due to the Covid-19 outbreak,
lenders across the country were forced to make immediate adjustments to cope
with the new restrictions. One example of which being Nationwide – the biggest
building society in the UK – which immediately withdrew all mortgages with an
LTV of 75% or higher.

According to the lender, the adjustment was necessary in order to “focus on
supporting existing mortgage members, while continuing to process ongoing
applications”.

Lenders needed to figure out viable ways to maintain operations at a time when
their offices and mortgage processing hubs were facing the prospect of home
working or furlough for their staff. Home working is still the norm, but lenders’
adjustments to working practices in the meantime have enabled them to begin
cautiously relaxing prior restrictions.

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Coronavirus

Covid-19’s Impact on UK House Prices Surprisingly Minimal

If the results of a recent Rightmove study are anything to go by, UK property prices may not have been quite as catastrophically hit by the coronavirus  outbreak as expected. Comparatively sluggish performance was never in any doubt, though an apparent 0.2% fall in average property prices for March is not nearly as dramatic as some had predicted.

A Housing Market in Lockdown

The mandatory lockdown imposed across the UK makes it practically impossible for property transactions to take place in the normal way. As a result, the housing market in its entirety entered its own state of lockdown and almost stalled entirely.

Average UK property prices have been knocked off their all-time highs by Covid-19, though the damage done to date might not be as severe as expected. Economists and estate agents had expected dramatic (if temporary) plummets in average house prices across the country, though this apparently has not been the case.

According to the latest figures from Rightmove, the average newly advertised home put up for sale in April had a market value of £312,000. This represents a decline of just 0.2% from the month before, though importantly is still an impressive 2.1% increase on the same month last year.

This would suggest that while the coronavirus crisis may have brought about a period of sluggish performance, the housing market hasn’t come close to collapsing.

A Slump in Physical Sales Activity

UK property prices may not have been impacted severely by the Covid-19 outbreak but lockdown has certainly taken a toll on the industry as a whole. A significant slump in activity has forced many estate agents to furlough employees, with interest among buyers and sellers having reducing.

At the height of the slump, Rightmove reported that visits to its website were down by as much as 40%, which occurred shortly after the lockdown was announced by the UK government.

In the meantime, interest and activity has apparently “started to recover” according to Rightmove. In addition, evidence suggests that the collective efforts of buyers, sellers, banks and conveyancers to keep things moving is helping the property market as a whole to retain at least some level of buoyancy.

Fewer new sellers were listing their properties for sale during March, though the vast majority of sellers who had already began marketing their properties chose not to withdraw their homes for sale. As a result, property availability at Rightmove is down just to 2.6% since the beginning of lockdown.

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