Agents and senior industry figures fear Coronavirus may derail the strong start to the 2020 housing market.
One of the country’s leading agents, Jeremy Leaf - the former RICS residential faculty chairman - says: “We need to build up some momentum as the virus will inevitably have an impact on the property world just as it is on every business and we have already noticed enquiry levels have dropped over the last week or so. Hopefully the market will shrug off these fears as hopefully the position stabilises.”
The chief economist of the Nationwide, Robert Gardner, is also preparing the industry for problems. “The global economic backdrop remains challenging, with the coronavirus outbreak expected to weigh on global activity in the coming quarters,” he reported as a note accompanying his company’s latest house price index.
Tomer Aboody, director of property lender MT Finance, warns that while 2020 has had a strong start, the virus is a threat and he says: “Looking forward we expect this positivity to continue but with the possible pandemic of the coronavirus hitting the financial markets, this could have an impact on all-important property confidence.”
The organisers of the international property conference MIPIM - scheduled to start next week in Cannes - have postponed it until June.
As we reported last week, a string of commercial and residential companies pulled out last week, including Knight Frank, JLL, Savills and Cushman Wakefield.
Now organisers have announced that the event - which attracts 27,000 delegates - will take place on June 2 to June 5.
They say in a statement: “Given the evolving context, the best course of action is to postpone MIPIM to June. This is not a decision we have taken lightly.”
The Coronavirus did not come up at last week’s annual conference of the National Association of Estate Agents in London, but on Twitter buying agent Henry Pryor - who described the conference attended by several hundreds of agents as a “junket” - wrote: “With a question mark hanging over MIPIM … maybe hosting this [NAEA] junket should also have been reconsidered.”
Stock market jitters over the virus hurt estate agency and property companies that are listed on the London Stock Exchange.
Worst hit was Countrywide, which lost five per cent of its value on Friday.