One of Britain’s leading agents says online viewing and interest in videos for homes on sale continues to be relatively strong as the lockdown continues for a third week.
But Jeremy Leaf - the former RICS residential chairman who runs his own north London agency - admits that social distancing enforced by the Coronavirus crisis has wiped out most ‘physical’ market activity as buyers bide their time.
Leaf’s comments came in response to the latest house price figures which show how promising the market was in early March before the outbreak hit in earnest.
The Halifax’s latest monthly index says house prices were steady in March before the lockdown with a typical home in the UK costing £240,384.
Annual house prices were up three per cent in March but Halifax managing director Russell Galley says the month ended with a dramatically different outlook.
He continues: ”On a practical level, most market activity has been paused, with the public rightly following advice to stay at home, and estate agencies, surveyors and conveyancers temporarily closing as a result. With viewings cancelled and movers being encouraged to put transactions on hold, activity will inevitably fall sharply in the coming months.
“It should be noted that with less data available, calculating average house prices is likely to become more challenging in the short-term. However, it’s still too early to properly assess what potential long-term impacts the current lockdown might have on the UK housing market" adds Galley.
“While there is very significant uncertainty at the moment, much will depend on the length of time it takes for restrictions to be lifted, the pressure that has been exerted on the economy in the meantime and the effect this has on consumer sentiment.”
The director of Benham and Reeves agency, Marc von Grundherr, says any impact to the market should only be felt for the duration of the lockdown.
“A freeze on both the side of buyers and sellers should also help reduce any immediate decline to price growth and this will be a short-term adjustment at worst” he predicts.
Meanwhile Ben Johnston, director of off-market property app Houso, says: “The worst thing for us all would be for commentators to try to predict what is going to happen with regard to prices. With no sales data and no history of this sort of event happening, all it is is guesswork. Right now, we should all be thankful for our homes as a place to shelter and protect our family.”