With the UK housing market now largely open – there are still restrictions in some areas on home moves to occupied properties – some key trends are emerging post-lockdown.
1. Demand moderating, but still strong
There has been a slight easing in demand over the past fortnight, which was to be expected after the steep and continued rise seen since the trough in the market mid-way through lockdown. Even so, buyer demand levels are more than 40% higher than they were back in early March before the effects of COVID-19 started to become clear. There will be upticks as the data flows through from the opening of the Welsh and Scottish markets – there was a 41% bounce in demand for Welsh homes on the day that market opened. However, given that the English market accounts for four-fifths of transactions, an easing in demand here will follow through to the wider UK figures. Despite this moderation in demand, overall levels also remain well elevated compared to the same time last year.
2. Supply is constrained
While new listings levels have also risen strongly since the reopening of the English market, overall supply of new homes for sale is still down an average of 15% year-on-year. This is weighing on activity in some markets, for example, in Cambridge, supply is down 40% year on year, and new sales agreed in mid-June were more than 50% lower than in February this year. This supply constraint is also serving to underpin pricing however, which, alongside the renewed activity and momentum in the market, means that UK pricing is likely to remain stable at or around the 2%-3% annual growth mark during the summer, before downward pressure starts to emerge in pricing due to the wider economic conditions.
3. Post-Covid moves
Lockdown has led many tenants and homeowners to reassess their relationship with their home, and over the last few months we have been highlighting the potential for a new cohort of buyers and movers entering the market post-lockdown – those who have decided that they want to live in a different space, or live somewhere else, because of how they have experienced lockdown. So while the pent-up activity of those who were already “in the market”, whether home hunting or in the sale process, has been released, there are also signs of new movers entering the fray. This has been echoed in a new ONS survey which highlighted that one in four people are planning a major life change after the country has recovered from COVID-19, and of these people, more than a third have said they would like to change where they live.