While mindful of the present circumstances, it is encouraging to see the housing and property market remaining high on the government’s priority list and starting to re-open again after these unprecedented times.
For many reasons, it is vital that the housing and property market must be kick-started again and estate agents and businesses within the industry must be ready to adapt to the way that the market has changed now lockdown restrictions are being lifted.
Firstly, we all know how vital the property market is to the UK’s economy historically. The industry has always led the way and the government must continue to invest in housing across the country to ensure this continues.
Many developers have been left stranded with half-completed schemes throughout this crisis and it is crucial that these are completed fully with proper investment from the government. These schemes underpin the future expansion of the UK’s housing market.
The second reason is the impact and benefit that the right home setting can have on the population. Many people’s mental health and wellbeing will have taken a serious hit over the past few months due to various factors, including not only health and financial security but also their home environment.
There is no doubt that many family dynamics will have changed throughout this crisis, so we predict that once the market reopens, it will see a change in the requirements customers have for their new homes. With so many businesses looking to operate remotely, more families will be on the hunt for properties with home office space and playrooms - we can even expect to see a rise in people moving out of our town and cities in search of a quieter, safer and more socially distant life in the country.
There is a lot of speculation within the industry about how the market will respond post-lockdown, with an estimated 450,000 buyers and renters with plans on hold. We would expect to see a high demand of people looking to move once they feel safe to do so.
Both Brexit and the last general election had already caused many buyers to delay putting their property on the market, so now that we are re-emerging from the third delaying factor, many people will be desperate to put their property up for sale.
Although transaction rates will still be down in the short-term, the first area of the market that presents the biggest opportunity will be empty properties as they have the lowest Covid-19 risk during the sales process. In time, the rest of the market will follow, however we can expect to see some larger changes in the way that the traditional housing market operates.
There is no doubt that this crisis has completely transformed the industry and, although with time we hope most businesses will return to their prior state, we believe that some of the changes this crisis has forced upon the industry are here to stay.
Both buyers and vendors will have to take into account the social distancing measures that will be here to stay for the foreseeable future – we can expect to see a fall in the number of viewings taking place in-person and open houses are now a thing of the past. Estate agents are going to have to rely much more on digital resources to appeal to buyers.
Aligning with these changes in the industry, we have seen an increase in our virtual staging service with many estate agents recognising that success within the market now depends on having virtual property tours and high-quality images and videos. A trend that we predict will expand and grow even further over the coming months.
With the empty housing market predicted to be the first to bounce back, estate agents must ensure that they are still presenting their properties in the same way they would a furnished house.
Just because the house is empty, it does not mean buyers will expect anything less than they would from an occupied property - customers will still want to see beautifully staged homes, high-quality videos, virtual staged tours, and strong images. These are all changes the industry must be prepared to respond to.
However, it is not just empty properties that will need to be supported by digital assets – when it comes to selling an occupied home many vendors, owners and buyers will be very hesitant to encourage in-person viewing to parties that are not truly interested.
To fill this gap, estate agents will need to provide high-quality virtually staged tours to capture the buyer’s eye and give them a true representation of the property.
*Elaine Penhaul is director of Lemon and Lime Interiors