Our meeting on the 20th January 2021, provided unique insight into operating conditions across the surveying, conveyancing, agency, property search and mortgage broking industries.
Joined by surveying representative, Rachel Griffiths – SDL Surveying, conveyancing representative, Megan Jenkins – Shakespeare Martineau, property searches representative, Kelly Wilson – tmgroup, estate agency representative, Lisa Rowden – Blundells, and mortgage broking representative, Gemma Bacon – Mortgage Advice Bureau, Chair Emma Vigus, also MD of mio and part of the tmgroup Exec, kicked off the conversation by asking the group to reflect on their current work volumes.
A strong tail end of 2020 has propelled high volumes into 2021, and it’s been a busy start to the year for some, as Rachel Griffiths – SDL Surveying comments:
“We’re still incredibly busy as we continue to manage the work coming through from a busy November and December. In fact, we’re actually up 11.512% on where we were in January 2020. There is some variation across the country however, as London and South Wales are particularly busy, compared to a relatively flat and steady picture in Manchester, the Midlands and North East, but it’s really too early to say exactly what this means.”
There’s been a similar experience for lenders and mortgage brokers, as Gemma Bacon – Mortgage Advice Bureau comments:
“We are seeing continued higher levels of activity through January so far, off the back of a strong November and December. We’re optimistic about the year ahead as we’re continuing to see high demand.”
By contrast, estate agents are feeling the more immediate impact of Lockdown 3.0. as sellers are unsure about putting their house on the market right now, as Lisa Rowden – Blundells comments:
“We’re seeing valuations slack off a bit because of Lockdown 3.0. As with previous lockdowns, there’s this initial period where people don’t realise, they can still move. The message just isn’t getting out in some places, so we’ve got lots of buyers, but not a lot of people wanting to put their house on market. Once people begin to feel more confident and become more aware of the measures that are in place to help them move safely, for example virtual viewings, I’m confident this will prove to be a ‘temporary blip’ and the volumes will come through once more.”
It’s also anticipated that the end of the Stamp Duty holiday may not be as drastic as first thought, as Megan Jenkins – Shakespeare Martineau comments: “We’ve been busy across all elements of the residential market, and while we’ve had a lot of people ask questions about being able to complete within the current Stamp Duty holiday, a lot of people have been quite relaxed about it all and simply said that if they don’t get there, they’ll still move in April/May. It may very well be the case that volumes begin to tail off, but it’s promising to see there are still people happy and willing to move after the end of March.”
This will also be supported by a rush of people still wanting to buy and sell houses due to a change in personal circumstances, as Lisa Rowden – Blundells comments:
“Although Lockdown 3.0. and the Stamp Duty holiday period are creating a rather unpredictable market, there are some strong emerging trends and we’re optimistic that we should be meeting (if not exceeding) our 2019 transaction volumes. As an example, we’re expecting to see an increase in First Time Buyers; many of which have continued working and have been able to build a sizeable deposit from their reduced living costs (of no commute, for starters) and are now well-placed to take advantage of the increased availability of 95% LTV mortgages.”
That’s not the only driving force expected to support the property market this year, as Gemma Bacon – Mortgage Advice Bureau comments: “We’re also expecting a surge of people to be moving house for more personal reasons, such as deciding to part ways after an intense last 9 months, as well as a surge in “lockdown babies” at the other end of the spectrum, forcing people to reassess their living arrangements.”
As the meeting came to a close, there was some discussion about the ongoing challenges posed by extremely high volumes of work and unrealistic client expectations. The importance of good communication, alongside working collaboratively with the other businesses involved in a transaction, were highlighted as key to helping to resolve these problems. The meeting ended on a positive note with agreement on the fact that one of the key lessons we’ve learnt in 2020 is that the residential property industry and the people in it are more adaptable and resilient than we could have ever imagined.
With thanks to our panelists: