We’ve all seen the headlines: the property market is returning to life as lockdown eases. Whether the data is from Rightmove, Zoopla or Coadjute, the figures show the same picture: of rapidly increasing registration, viewings, and in the last two weeks, offers. Many are saying ‘this is just a blip’, that what we’re seeing is just activity that was stopped before lockdown, “catching up”. “Give it a month or so”, they say, and we’ll be “back to normal”. I don’t agree.
This isn’t a blip. What we’re seeing in the data isn’t just people who were going to move, now catching up on their missed activity. What we’re seeing is the effect of people, in large numbers, reviewing their lives, their priorities and their finances.
Many people have spent two months now in lockdown: sitting at home, working at home, trying to teach the kids at home. They’ve experienced the lack of a spare bedroom, the small garden, the noisy neighbours, the open plan kitchen. They’ve remembered they always said they’d get that bigger flat, move somewhere more rural, get away from that main road. They’ve looked at their finances, and reflected that they really could spend more, or perhaps need to spend less to feel secure. And most importantly, they’re not expecting ‘normal’ to return any time soon.
An Ipsos Mori survey earlier in May showed that 67% of people were uncomfortable about going to large gathering. 60% of people are uncomfortable about using public transport, 40% about sending their children to school. In a more recent survey by YouGov and Good Morning Britain, 43% of people said they weren’t happy with the easing of lockdown rules. British people might not like lockdown much, but they think we need it, and are not expecting an easy ride when we start coming out of it.
So what do you do? You’re in a property that isn’t right for you, and you’re not sure how the world will turn out over the next year or two. What you do is you crack on and move while you can. You take advantage of the current stability and freedom because you’re not sure if it will last, and you don’t want to be stuck if it doesn’t. You get on with your life, because you need to and because you can.
So what we’re seeing isn’t a blip. It’s thousands of people reshaping their lives to reflect the new realities they’ve experienced in the last few months and the world they’re expecting in the coming few years. So don’t expect it to be temporary, this is going to go on for some time. The economy will still have its usual positive or negative effect on the housing market, of course. But for many people, their world has changed in the last few months, and over the next year they’ll reflect that in their property choices. Just watch the data.