Company Sales Director Tony Wing looks back on what has been a very dramatic year for the housing market and reports on the forecasts of what may come in 2021?
Nobody in January this year could have guessed what economic turmoil and personal tragedy lay ahead for us all in the UK. After nearly 40 years in estate agency, I certainly thought that I had more or less seen it all, from boom to bust in the housing market. But since spring this year we have had to face an economic and public health crisis on a scale we have not seen since the Second World War.
So, were we concerned on lockdown that the housing market faced a catastrophe? In all honestly, no. The team was far to occupied with having to dynamically adapt to such rapidly changing events! Our sales teams seamlessly moved into lockdown home working and customer communications due to our excellent IT and management systems. They worked tirelessly in shoring up sales, reassuring and demonstrating to our customers (and those of other agents whose services went missing during the lockdown), that their house sale deals could and would be completed. Buyer inquires soon started to grow, virtual viewings and marketing appraisals took off and we then bust out of lockdown into an open market.
Despite the government’s assistance, we have seen a huge number of very good estate agents lose their jobs in the area. However, at Robert Bell & Company we made no redundancies – we have been busy, our business has been growing. More and more customers now recognise that just paying to put their home online and praying, is not the best route to finding a buyer who will pay the best possible sale price, compared with what our team’s comprehensive marketing and sales approach, allied to high-quality personal service, can achieve. We have a 5 Star Feefo rating for a reason!
So in these now uncertain times should it be all doom and gloom? Well, no. But, there are concerns and risks ahead that need to be sensibly considered when we look at how the housing market might perform next year.
Let us start by looking at the good news we have already had for which we should all be very, very, grateful. And that is, despite it all, the housing market did not fold! Indeed, it proved to be remarkably more resilient than most commentators thought it could be. It did not just weather the initial storm surge but came back in even stronger. How?
Well, the government's furlough scheme has been key to this, as it has helped to maintain high levels of employment, preventing an economic collapse, and all the fundamental elements needed for a positive housing market and house prices remain in place - a shortage of supply, a still-present high level of demand and crucially, low-interest rates.
When the first lockdown lifted, pent up demand from buyers poured out. The government’s generous Stamp Duty concession then added yet another big push on to the momentum in the market. And for Lincolnshire, we also saw a very significant increase in demand from buyers in London, South Yorkshire and the East Midlands, regions into which RB&Co has always strongly promoted their customer’s homes. The Mayfair Office in London has been a godsend!
But here is the more difficult news. There is talk of a very deep long recession ahead. As the benefits of the governments extended furlough scheme winds down over the next few months, we may see a further and very significant rise in unemployment within the economy. There are allegedly now unofficial comments coming out from Whitehall that a cash strapped government has no intention of extending the Stamp Duty holiday scheme beyond the 31st March deadline. We shall see.
Also, with solicitors, lenders and search providers all struggling to keep up with the work already piled high on their desks, there are now concerns that sales agreed post-January could well miss out on completing before the deadline and as a consequence, we may see demand in the market fall back as buyers see their opportunity of a significant tax windfall start to disappear. At this point, with a worsening economic outlook and the possible additional burden of Brexit to carry, it has been forecast by some that we may then see a fall in house prices by 5% to 15% over 2021, before a steady recovery thereafter.
But now comes the hope, the hope I know you are all looking for. It has also been forecast by Rightmove and others, that with low supply in the market and continued low-interest rates, we could well see the existing positive momentum in the housing market continue, despite the end of the Stamp Duty concession, but with a lower level of house price growth of around 4% in 2021. And, on top of this, we could well see with the roll-out of a UK wide vaccination program, a significant rise in positive public sentiment as regards the future, the power of which could also help to provide significant a boost to confidence in the housing market and the wider economy looking ahead to late Spring/Summer next year.
Yes, the outlook is uncertain. There are worries, but there’s also hope that if you are looking to buy or sell next year, the market may yet do you proud. Remember uncertainty also provides opportunities in the housing market for those bold enough to take advantage of them. Make 2021 your year to be bold!
If you are looking to sell in 2021 the professionalism of Robert Bell & Company can help to ensure that no matter how the wind of fortune may blow through the housing market, your home will have the opportunity of achieving the best possible sale price.
Best wishes to you all for the year ahead from all of us at Robert Bell & Company.