Consumers Drive Recovery In UK Housing Market

Traffic to Rightmove’s property portal returned to normal levels the same day as the lockdown restrictions on the UK’s housing market were lifted, latest figures suggest.

The figures are indicative of a groundswell of pent-up desire among consumers to move house. Rightmove received nearly 5.2 million visits to its website on Wednesday 13 May, an increase of 4pc on the same day last year. New sales enquiries doubled from Tuesday to Wednesday, ending just 10pc below the figure for the same day in 2019.

There was also a 111pc week-on-week increase in new sales listings the day the market reopened. Furthermore, announcing a boost in rental demand, Rightmove reported the largest amount of new enquiries in one day since September 2019.

Funding readily available

Miles Shipside, Rightmove director and housing market analyst, commented that although the lockdown shrank the traditionally active spring market, there is evidence that the market is rebounding, supported by the knowledge that due to the lockdown many consumers are now feeling dissatisfied with their homes and surroundings.

While they may be unable or unwilling to move at the moment, others are more than ready and willing to take appropriate action.

The firm, he added, expects to see momentum building steadily over several months rather than weeks, despite new enquiries for property on sale having doubled from the previous day. He thought it too early to comment on price movements because of the absence of new data on sellers’ asking prices, although he accepted that a stable market requires high demand.

Taking into consideration the thousands of sales buyers and sellers are anxious to complete, the firm anticipates little short-term pressure on prices. Unlike the situation in 2008, funding remains readily available, a factor that can only improve liquidity in the market and increase buyer confidence.

Mr Shipside believes that the availability of attractive lower deposit mortgages will help to support the recovery in activity. As the housing market was expected to remain closed until June at the earliest, the industry has received a very pleasant surprise.

Large increase in leads for agents

Such has been the explosive nature of consumer activity encouraged by the reopening of the property market that websites such as OneDome Group have generated their highest ever number of leads for agents in a single day. OneDome.com and Nethouseprices.com are currently generating four leads per minute for all agents listed on the platforms.

The figure is an increase from three leads per minute in March and 1.7 leads per minute in January. If the consumer activity experienced over the last few days continues, the OneDome group expects to generate 170,000-180,000 leads for agents in the next 30 days. Prior to lockdown, the sites were generating 120,000 leads per month for agents.

Babek Ismayil, founder and CEO of OneDome, has seen traffic and consumer activity increase dramatically over the last four or five days, an indication that buyers and sellers are ready to resume their property transactions.

House prices increase

On a related note, UK house prices rose in March before the coronavirus lockdown effectively closed the housing market. The average UK house price increased by 2.1pc in the year to March, up from 2pc in February.

According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), London house prices shot up by 4.7pc, the greatest 12-month growth recorded in the capital since December 2016.

In Wales, house prices rose by 1.1pc to £162,000 and increased in England by 2.2pc to £248,000. The average house price in Northern Ireland jumped by 3.8pc and Scottish house prices grew by 1.5pc.

The ONS house price index, based on completed housing sales, records transactions that occurred before the Government imposed restrictions to reduce the spread of Covid-19. The subsequent lockdown, introduced on 23 March, brought the UK housing market to a sudden halt, with experts predicting a sharp fall in house prices this year.

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