But with the renewed lockdown having a clear impact on location and renter priorities once more, should investors looking to purchase over the next 12 months be changing their strategy?
Not necessarily, claims Andy Foote, a director at UK property developer SevenCapital.
“There’s no doubt that the UK’s lockdown has had a visible – and well-documented – effect on the housing market this year,” he says.
“Being forced to stay within one’s four walls for extended periods of time and transform its uses to include a workstation and gym amongst other things has understandably forced many renters and homeowners alike to re-evaluate their needs and priorities. Internal space and access to greenery and countryside are both now high on the agenda.”
Foote says we’ve seen the ‘London exodus’ as city dwellers race out of ‘their rented city-pads’ for more spacious accommodation near parks and countryside on the outer edges of the capital, or even further afield.
“We’ve heard of increased searches for larger-sized rental accommodation, perhaps with an extra room or with a balcony,” he explains.
“Some of these trends are likely to last and should, of course, be noted and monitored over the coming months. But this shouldn’t require a complete rethink of your existing investment strategy; certainly not if your strategy is one that has long proven successful.”
He believes it likely that the desire for more space will continue, along with the need for outdoor space – ‘whether this be near a park or, for those previously without, a balcony’.
“What will be interesting to see will be the increase, if any, in the proportion of sharers as people who have spent lockdown alone decide they want more company,” he continues.
“However, the most important thing to remember if you’re reconsidering any part of your property investment strategy, is first and foremost that the events of this year – the pandemic and subsequent lockdown – may not be long-lasting.”
With the promising news that a Covid-19 vaccine is on the near horizon, a government adviser recently said that life in the UK will start returning to normal by spring next year, following early trial data from the pharmaceutical firms Pfizer and BioNTech indicating that their Covid-19 vaccine is 90% effective.
“I’m probably the first guy to say that but I will say that with some confidence,” professor Sir John Bell, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said.
Foote believes that, based on this, it’s highly likely that ‘whilst it won’t happen overnight, we will see a gradual return to the office, which in turn will induce a return to those London and city centre apartments and crash pads that have allegedly emptied over recent months’.
“In which case, those landlords who’ve remained confident in the market will be best-placed to reap the benefits,” he adds.
Equally, Foote says it’s worth remembering that the UK spent lockdown amidst a ‘blazing hot, sunny summer’, where the natural instinct is to want to be outside amongst rolling countryside.
“But come winter, when the cold bites in that larger countryside home and the lonely walk to the local pub feels far too long, suddenly it loses its appeal, versus the warm, cosy city apartment that’s close to all the amenities you long to socialise in again. It’s a serious consideration.”
Foote adds: “Of course, there are areas that have emerged as new hotspots for renters, however right now, I wouldn’t write off that contemporary city apartment for one in an area you wouldn’t usually look twice at. Because once life does return to normal, renters who’ve missed the city lifestyle, for whom the novelty of working from home has worn off, will come flooding back – if they even left in the first place.”