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There can be no doubt that the COVID-19 crisis has ushered in completely unprecedented times, and that is nowhere truer than in the property market. In the months leading up to the pandemic, property prices were steadily rising, and sales were doing well. But today the market is a very different place due to the coronavirus outbreak.
In the UK, since the start of lockdown house sales have been down 70%, and that is clearly an enormous drop, putting virtually everyone in the property industry in trouble. And of course, this is very bad news for sellers as well as for businesses in the property market. But conversely, does that also mean that COVID-19 presents an incredible opportunity for buyers?
Here we take a look at whether buying a property during the COVID-19 crisis is a smart move, and what buyers can look out for as the situation progresses.
Of course, the UK is now under lockdown in order to attempt to flatten the curve and overcome the worst of the virus. This would already make buying challenging enough given the fact that under the strict lockdown rules viewing a property and meeting with estate agents or conveyancers would not be allowed. However, the government has advised that “home buyers and renters should, where possible, delay moving to a new house while measures are in place to fight coronavirus”.
This is another hurdle for making a potential sale. If the government is advising people not to move, it makes buyers more likely to avoid it and stops sellers from putting their property on the market.
But just because government advice makes it more challenging to buy and sell in the current climate, there is nothing to say that it is impossible. In fact, COVID-19 has created a situation that actually makes it easier for buyers.
There is evidence to suggest due to the lack of interest across the market, sellers will be forced to lower their prices in order to make a sale. Some estimates suggest that prices will fall by around 3% as an initial result of the impact of the pandemic. However, as the outcome of lockdown and the challenges to the economy remain unclear, it may well be the case that prices could fall much further.
This clearly puts those interested in buying a property in a good position in terms of negotiating prices. Being aware that the market is in a weak position gives buyers the upper hand and that’s something that hasn’t been the case for a long time. Price, of course, is a major motivator in property sales.
It is well worth noting that while things look a little bleak for the property market at the moment, many companies are still operating - many, in fact, are changing up their working practice to ensure that they can stay within the rules of lockdown during the house buying procedure.
Solicitors and conveyancers have for a long time been able to offer their services purely through written and phone correspondence, so there is no issue with the legal side of the transaction going through. Estate agents are doing everything they can to make it possible for buyers to get the best information on the property. As well as expanding the information they have on their websites, many estate agents are now offering virtual tours of the property as well as further images.
It is even possible to get some of the other details managed through the process. Chartered surveyors Foundation Surveyors state that “we have made a series of adjustments to our surveying procedures. We are still undertaking surveys, but we are employing social distancing measures where property are occupied”.
The industry is adapting to make it possible for interested buyers to continue on their journey and make property purchases.
The fact that it is still perfectly possible to meet property purchases at the same time that the market is dipping for the first time in a while makes this a huge opportunity for buyers who are willing to buy without seeing the property in person. It may well be the case that you can put all of the details of the sale in place with the caveat that you will not complete until lockdown has been lifted and the property is available for viewing.
This article is part of a series of lifestyle content pieces written for Moving and Improving by Annie Button. Find out what else Annie has been up to over on Twitter: @anniebutton1994 or visit more of Annie's amazing articles in our related blog section.
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