The coronavirus crisis has affected the property investment market in many ways, from cancelled short-lets bookings and people worried about the future of their assets to postponed events and alternative uses being sought for empty or unused properties.
Here, we check in with one of the leading UK property podcasters – part of a podcasting duo helping to offer expert advice and guidance in these troubled, uncertain times – and explore how a property author and landlord is offering his London apartment to NHS workers.
What’s happening in the property market right now?
Rob Bence is the chief executive at Property Hub, a property forum offering investment advice, tips and news, and home to The Property Podcast, which features Rob and his podcasting partner Rob Dix discussing the latest property news and sharing their knowledge on a different property topic every week. The Robs also host popular “Ask Rob & Rob” shows, where they answer questions from listeners.
The Property Podcast, which is downloaded over 300,000 times a month, was due to go live at an event at the end of this month at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – which has, for obvious reasons, now been put on hold.
However, Rob & Rob are continuing to podcast in these lockdown times. Alongside their two usual Tuesday and Thursday slots, where coronavirus is of course a key topic, another regular slot that's dedicated to market updates has been added. This podcast is raw and unedited every Friday, and the most recent episode – Market Update 3 – can be listened to here, alongside other recent podcasts and the duo’s most popular episodes.
“The property market, along with many others, has pretty much ground to a halt; not because of sentiment, but because of logistical challenges,” Rob Bence tells us.
“The government’s attempt to hit pause to prevent an economic disaster has created a wave of industries unable to move or progress as they would usually: property purchases have stalled, the lettings market is unable to continue operating as normal, and now over 1,300 mortgage products have been withdrawn from the market as lenders reassess their risks.”
Bence added: “These times are challenging, but we’re seeing resilience from all parties and an urge to keep the cogs turning in preparation for when things start to return to normal.”
From a personal business perspective, Bence said: “We’re seeing both sides of the coin right now. On one hand, we’re having more conversations than ever with developers who now want to negotiate deals because of the uncertainty - and this is firmly being taken advantage of by investors. Our last launch sold out in less than 30 seconds, so those in a position to continue investing are continuing to do so.”
“On the other hand, we have clients currently in the buying process who are unnerved by the current climate and in limbo because of mortgage availability and lack of conveyancing activity.”
He says investors who are unable to ride out void periods are also naturally unnerved at the lack of movement in the letting market, which is adding another degree of concern. “However, Property Hub Lets have had one of their busiest weeks as prospective tenants have been keen to negotiate reduced rents and landlords have been eager to avoid void periods. Virtual video viewings have really come into their own over the past two weeks.”
And the future? “There are a few ways it could go from here. We could have a short-term mess with many industries being temporarily challenged. We start to see improvements, restrictions are lifted and the government stimulus keeps us ticking over nicely (and slowly) while we get back to some normality.”
Alternatively, he argues, ‘we could see these restrictions continue long-term which will affect the economy in a huge way. In the worst-case scenario, we have the possibility of hitting a depression, triggering political uncertainty and even public anger.”
“Or we have the third option of making a quick recovery but the overloaded financial stimulus will push us into an early boom cycle,” Bence says. “If Covid-19 disappeared tomorrow, the additional money put into the system could cause assets to rocket, triggering this boom phase referenced within the 18-year property cycle.”
Bence says that it’s likely the end of the lockdown will have an impact on sentiment. “Optimism can cause money to flow as people spend more on holidays or take on more debt than they usually would,” he continues. “So this newfound optimism, in addition to the financial stimulus, could result in the boom phase being accelerated earlier than we were expecting.”
Bence adds: “Personally, I think we have a combination of the former and the latter on the cards. We can draw a lot from the 18-year property cycle, but the question mark will be whether Covid-19 kicks us into a crash now, or whether the stimulus will kick us on for another 5-7 years and then we enter this phase”.
One thing that’s easy to predict, he says, is that things won’t simply snap back to normal. “It’ll take time for people’s confidence to return, and we might not see the effects of this play out for the rest of the year.”
He says we’ve pretty much hit a recession overnight, but it’s no ordinary recession because there aren’t usually these levels of restrictions in place. Plus, he adds, we’ve never seen the enormous financial stimuli ploughed into the economy in the way it has over the past few weeks.
“For those experienced in property and who invest in it for the long-term, the current situation won’t trigger any differences in their actions,” Bence concludes. “But for those new to the industry or are affected by Covid-19 with job losses or financial hardship, it’ll take a bit more time.”
Landlord and author offers accommodation to NHS staff
A landlord and the author of ‘How I Bought 3 London Properties For A Football Ticket’ is offering his London apartment to NHS staff, medical professionals, other key workers or anyone in urgent need of temporary of long-term accommodation during these challenging times.
Laurence Lameche is also calling on other landlords in London and the rest of the UK to offer their empty properties to NHS staff and key workers ‘so that we can all do our bit to help each other get through this together’.
“I am offering my accommodation at a discounted price with all bills included. Also, as the landlord, I will help to get supplies of food or toilet rolls for my new tenant. I will do my best to help in any way I can during these difficult times.”
The apartment is situated in Islington, near to Angel tube station. For more information, please contact Laurence Lameche on: 07518 572 950.
This isn’t the first time Lameche has made headlines for his acts of kindness. In December 2017, he received media coverage for giving one of his London flats to a homeless mother – Lameche was once homeless himself - and her three children for free for one month over the Christmas period.
Lameche’s latest fine gesture is just one of the many examples of kindness being shown during these difficult times, including initiatives such as the STAA’s NHS Homes scheme.