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What is the impact of Covid-19 on the property sector?

For this month’s discussion, we caught up with property professionals Nick Harris, Bryan Mansell, Rob Goffman and Neil Henderson who share their view on the impact of Covid-19 on the property sector.  

Nick Harris, Co-founder, Quarters Residential

“Covid 19 has certainly slowed new business growth but it has allowed us to consolidate the business we already have in the pipeline, as well as help new clients who are serious about moving to prepare for when lockdown is lifted.

Now much of the political uncertainty of the past three and a half years has passed, several clients had planned to launch their home onto the market in the springtime and are now choosing to wait until ‘normality’ resumes.  There’s still a lot of pent up demand following the uncertainties caused by Brexit and we’re working closely with sellers & buyers to help them to navigate pre-agreed sales and mio is definitely a real help with this.

To keep new business flowing, we’re carrying out virtual viewings with interested buyers and are helping sellers to become ready to launch when we’re able to carry out physical viewings again.  We’ve certainly seen a huge amount of change since lockdown began but fortunately our main systems are cloud based so we’re able to fully communicate with all clients.  It’s interesting as this period has shown us just how agile our systems are and will help to improve the way we work in the future. “

Bryan Mansell, Owner, The AllStars Group

“The speed in which Coronavirus took hold has undoubtedly caught us all by surprise. Estate Agency businesses, like every other, had no time to prepare for the impact and certainly no time to prepare for lockdown and the closure of offices. This impacted immediately Agents’ ability to continue to work efficiently for their customers not least with property viewings and valuations for new business but also their ability to communicate with their pipeline of sales and all of the stakeholders responsible for progressing transactions.

Slowly they have transitioned to remote working and from a communication point of view things began to operate as normal. Agents, like many others, have become more proficient with video conferencing and quickly utilised this as a means to communicate with each other and their customers. The full impact is yet to be seen but with significantly lower physical viewings, still essential in a transaction for Sales and Rentals, and therefore a big drop in sales during what is one of the key periods of the year, Spring, this will no doubt have a terminal effect on some and a high income impact on many.

The constant negative headlines about price falls are impacting buyer sentiment although demand is beginning to recover. Will be an interesting few weeks ahead when we understand how Agents can be brought back to full operational strength.”

Rob Goffman, Principal, EMW Law

“Since the outbreak, the residential market has slowed considerably as deals can only be done where no inspections are required and no need for people to move – so completions are only really happening where properties are empty;  where HA tenants are buying more shares in the property or where investors are buying empty properties or already tenanted properties.

We have seen that property finance is still very active for individuals or companies who are looking to get funding secured on properties where surveyors or valuers can do inspections online. Interestingly, it seems that banks are still keen to lend which is very different from the 2008 recession. 

It seems to be ‘business as usual’ to an extent for many property developers, who are still keen to sign up new sites on option, promotion or conditional contract basis so long as they can delay when they have to complete. They still need to sign up sites for the future and plan ahead for when the economy recovers. 

 When things return to normal,  we are expecting a release of pent up demand so we have to plan for that and be able to react.”

Neil Henderson, Director, Henderson Moore Financial Solutions 

“Talking from a perspective of being a mortgage broker for over 30 years and also a portfolio landlord for more than 20 years, it is interesting to see that while the purchase market has all but come to a standstill, the remortgage demand from buy-to–let clients has increased noticeably with many professional landlords wanting to release equity in order to purchase property at anticipated reduced prices. 

Whether or not there are bargains to be had will no doubt depend on how long the restrictions of the  Covid-19 crisis last and how the economy looks as we emerge from it. Certainly the post Brexit landscape saw the housing market warming up before Coronavirus arrived on the scene.

Any investment opportunities may well be short term as the residential market has shown great resilience and proved to be a reliable and profitable asset class over the last 20 years.”

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