So finally, there is light at the end of the tunnel and this time not another lockdown train coming in the other direction. Poetic prose I know and maybe not surprising for an estate agent, but I’m sure it reflects the thoughts of many following the government’s recent announcements. So where does this leave the housing market as we head towards what is traditionally the prime selling season? There is nothing traditional about what has been happening of late, of that there is no doubt. But yet with the market allowed to remain open in recent months and stimulated by the extension of the stamp duty holiday, will this all come crashing down as we return to normality, whatever that proves to be in the longer term?
Well, I am firmly in the “No” camp, and I believe for good reason. It does not require complicated economic theories nor ground-breaking statistics. Surely, it’s simply common sense that after almost 12 months of restriction, no one wants a depressed housing market, nor is it in anybody’s interest for it to happen. So with this in mind and showing deference to a certain Mr Johnson’s latest proposals, for those contemplating selling, I give you my personal 4 step “property roadmap” as we head out of what is hopefully the final lockdown.
Step One (part 1) — When vaccines protect people, maintenance and repair protects property. So with the “Stay at Home” dictum remaining in place, and if the children are back at school, maybe the next five weeks really is the time to get your house in order. I know I have said it many times before, but this year perhaps there are fewer excuses for not doing it.
Step One (part 2) — With certain outdoor activities to be allowed from the end of March, and a limited number of people allowed into your garden, April could be the month for getting said garden sorted. I foresee much jet washing of patios over the Easter holiday.
Step Two —From mid-April, all being well, shops and many other businesses described as non-essential will be reopening. After so much constraint in recent months, surely the feelgood factor will start to return and quickly …. and the many who I believe have put their house moving plans on hold over the last year will soon start coming out of the woodwork as well. And if you have a holiday let, you are back in business as well.
Step 3 — Its mid May and you will be glad you did the patio. Garden parties for up to 30 people will be on the cards and potentially the meeting of 6 inside (or two households) might be relaxed as well. Pubs and restaurants will start to re-open, likewise other leisure activities and potentially overseas travel as well.
Step 4 — Dare one say a return to normality?
There are many potential pitfalls to getting there, but if we all “do our bit” as they say, it’s very achievable. The property market thrives on confidence, and if these steps don’t create a feel good factor and enthusiasm for our passion of home ownership, especially after all we have collectively been through in the last year, then what will? How about the extension of the stamp duty holiday? It might relieve pressure in the short term, but it must be remembered sales have to complete, not just exchange, by the end of June to qualify. That is only three and half months’ away so who said spring was not traditionally the best time to be selling your home?
Tim Waring FRICS is Head of Residential at Lister Haigh in Harrogate