House viewings and instructions increased significantly in July as a result of the stamp duty holiday announced by the Chancellor earlier in the month, according to new data from property portal Andrews.
As buyers weighed in to take advantage of the increase in the stamp duty threshold to £500,000, viewings rose by 29pc compared to June 2020, while physical viewings jumped by as much as 45pc. Of the 6,000 viewings in July, which comprised around 200 per day compared to a mere 20 in April, one third were carried out virtually.
House instructions jumped by 22pc in July compared to June, while offers made and accepted climbed by 12pc. As lockdown restrictions were relaxed, the 48 branches of the Andrews network received 560 instructions, a notable increase on the 55 received in April, the month following the announcement of the lockdown by the Government.
Valuations were also up by one third last month with 879 carried out, in comparison to the eight booked during the whole of April.
Housing market proven to be resilient
David Westgate, Group CEO of Andrews Property Group, remarked on the difference four months makes. House viewings and instructions across the industry, he said, had dropped like a stone in April as the country was beset by coronavirus and the Government asked citizens to stay at home.
Yet the bounce back has been rapid as lockdown eased and the Chancellor’s stamp duty cut gave the market a well timed uplift in early July.
Both buyers and sellers, he added, have shown renewed interest in the last few weeks and the company expects buyer activity to remain upbeat over the coming months, especially as there will be a prolonged period in which to purchase before the stamp holiday comes to an end.
In addition, the stamp duty cut has resulted in an instant boost to house instructions and valuations, as sellers are sufficiently confident to list their property thanks to stable house prices and take the opportunity to woo motivated buyers.
While it won’t be an easy ride from now on, Mr Westgate concluded, the Government has demonstrated its firm commitment to a stable and healthy housing market as the foundation which underpins the overall economy.
Furthermore, house prices have proven to be remarkably resilient over the years when buffeted by the chill winds of economic downturn, which indicates that the market is sufficiently robust to overcome any bumps in the road ahead.
Boom could be followed by bust
However, a new market report injects a note of caution and warns the conveyancing sector that the upturn in residential property sales may not continue once governmental support is removed.
The survey of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) records the opinions of the surveyors who responded. Not surprisingly, 75pc agreed that the housing market is booming and 59pc that new house instructions have risen swiftly. Nationally, 12pc had seen house prices rise during July in all areas of the UK except London.
Although 26pc predicted an upturn in sales over the next three months, 10pc believed activity will instead decline over 12 months. Increasingly, there are doubts about how long the boom will last, as RICS’s 12-month sales projection remains negative.
Those who responded voiced their concern as to the effect of rising unemployment on the UK economy once the furlough scheme ends in October and the stamp duty holiday finishes in March next year.
Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist, said the strong stimulus to the housing market is evidenced from the results of the survey and many of the anecdotal comments made by respondents.
Yet it is interesting, he continued, that there remains caution with regard to the medium-term outlook, given the expected job losses and the ending or tapering of government support measures.
Ominously, he said, some respondents are now even considering the possibility of a boom followed by a bust.