The past few months have presented some of the most unique challenges ever faced to the property market. Now as large swathes of the industry return to work we can look to regain the momentum of the Boris Bounce, aid the recovery of the property market and as an industry adapt to the ‘new normal’ and shoulder the responsibility of safely kick starting the economy.
The latest report from the House Price Index revealed that London property values increased by 4.7% in the year before lockdown (results recorded March 2019-20), whilst activity levels and transactions in January and February were at record levels compared to the last few years.
The slowdown in the market caused by the stringent necessary lockdown measures put in place by the government will paint a far bleaker picture in the next set of reports, however, this doesn’t mean there haven’t been opportunities for discerning property businesses to take advantage of.
Whilst the majority of new development launches were put on hold during lockdown, we at Property Experts had faith that there was still life in the market and pressed ahead with the launch of an eight-unit development in Kenley.
The project was released on Thursday 9th April, the day before the Easter Bank Holiday. Our judgement and timing was perfect as only 9 properties were added to Rightmove for that week and with our apartments standing out as the only new conversions listed, our selling agent received a healthy number of viewing requests. By the following week we had agreed sales on 50% of the apartments.
By taking the fullest precautions we were able to allow interested buyers to view the apartments in isolation, with any questions answered on a follow-up call from our sales team. Being able to facilitate safe solitary viewings meant that all applicants were able to physically view and make a confident decision to offer in a way that a virtual tour could simply not have achieved.
Whilst many businesses entered a period of self-enforced hibernation, we have kept business operations as close to normal as possible. We adapted to any situation and found ways to overcome the challenges faced, whether photographs, cleaning or gardening was needed, the team pulled together to ensure our sites were well presented for any potential viewings.
From an investment perspective we have seen an increase in the number of buying opportunities, with some sellers requiring immediate liquidity and therefore willing to sell for unusually attractive terms. Two enquires resulted in same day deals being agreed and 24-hour exchanges taking place. Whilst other investors had effectively closed shop, we were able to remotely conduct our due diligence, place offers and instruct our legal team who were also still operating. With decades of industry experience and our unrivalled track record, we recognised this window as a buying opportunity and were well positioned for the challenges we faced.
The after effects of COVID-19, a health crisis of which we have never seen before, will undoubtedly be felt for many years to come, however, from a market perspective it still remains a correction akin to the 2008 financial crash, Brexit and the SDLT increase in 2014.
Every market correction presents opportunities and it is critical the industry grasps this with both hands to shape the future landscape of the property market. If there is a temporary price shift it could open up a whole new potential purchaser group looking to get onto the property ladder. It would also present a number of investment opportunities that will allow the market to reset and grow once more.
In every negative there is a positive and those businesses that adapt will prosper, those that won’t will be lost, much in the same way we saw a number of estate agents and developers go out of business in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash.
The team at Property Experts will continue to adapt and take the lessons learned during this lockdown period to shape our strategies for the next development launch or when assessing the next investment opportunity. By remaining active we have put ourselves in the best position to maximise our offering and ensure or buyers, investors and other clientele benefit from the knowledge gained in the years to come.
By Bruce Burkitt, Founder & Managing Director at Property Experts