It’s been a year now since we all were told to stay at home to save lives. In the last 12 months we’ve had plenty of time to examine the four walls within which we live and how we use them, make DIY mood boards, or bolder extension plans, or decide to throw in the towel and find somewhere better suited to our needs.
During this year the way that we buy and sell homes has also changed. The first lockdown saw a sudden increase in the use of virtual tours, not common place before COVID-19 hit UK shores. But it was not just for the customers, the use of virtual house staging also took off for developers trying to market their properties during this time.
Even now that viewings have been able to return by appointment, the use of virtual tours really helps to focus the mind of purchasers - if they’ve already seen the property in 3D and are still interested in the development then you’re more than half way towards a sale; viewing in person either makes or breaks the deal.
One unexpected benefit of working from home has actually been that potential buyers have more flexibility in their diaries, no longer is the salesperson trying to find the sweet-spot between a potential buyer leaving the office, travelling home, and finalising dinner arrangements to make that call. Diaries are much more planned, and arguably it’s easier to secure more attendees to a marketing webinar than it is to get them to take time out to visit an open house.
Buyers are definitely more focused on their requirements these days. This extended enforced period of being at home has made us all think about how we want our castles to be. So size, number of rooms, location and amenities are more defined in a purchaser’s minds, which means they’re more able to say yes or no, quickly and decisively.
Also in response to the pandemic, developers who have not yet committed bricks to mortar are tweaking their design to incorporate more flexible room spaces, able to accommodate a variety of uses, especially as the requirements for home working, to some extent, is likely to remain. Private external space is high up on many buyers agendas now and the priorities around communal amenities have shifted as well. Co-working environments are becoming more desirable, and have the added benefit of low service charge impact when compared to say, a swimming pool!
Once the initial lockdown ended last year there was a spike in activity in the market from pent up demand. Then with the government granting a stamp duty holiday for properties under £500,000 in the spring, that continued to spur on the market. With the threat of the holiday ending there was a further spike of activity at the beginning of January, which then tailed off as buyers feared they’d missed the boat. Now that the holiday has been extended (albeit winding down in steps by October) and the new Help to Buy scheme released (essential for the London market), we can expect to see further spikes in activity, likely over the summer months when people swap their holidays abroad for moving home instead.
The reasons why we move home are still taking place. We’re still getting married, divorced, having kids, moving jobs, retiring and so on, so there will always be activity in the market. The challenge will be, and always has been, for developers to be able to keep up with the trends of the consumer, because as we know there’s a long journey from buying land for development, to handing over the keys to new home-owners.
About the Author
Mike Bickerton has over 20 years experience in the London and wider UK new homes markets, acting for a wide range of clients from niche developers to national housebuilders and public sector bodies and leading many UK and International sales campaigns. To get in touch, contact Mike.Bickerton@colliers.com.