‘It’s like somebody has hit the pause button on house market’

IT is like somebody has hit the pause button, say island estate agents on the effect the coronavirus has had on the housing market.

Estate agent in Ann's Place, St Peter Port. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 27691673)
Estate agent in Ann's Place, St Peter Port. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 27691673)

Pragmatism and optimism was felt across the board as housing sales and lettings are said not to have dramatically dropped, however, estate agents think it may be too early to tell.

Shields & Rutland managing director Tim Roberts said only time would show if the housing market would be worse off after the coronavirus crisis ends.

‘It is a strange time for everybody and the property market is no different,’ he said.

‘Somebody has hit a pause button. It is too early to know definitively if the market will suffer during this crisis so vendors and purchasers are remaining optimistic and continuing with their sales and purchases.’

He said the agency had not yet had any deals fall through since the announcement of social distancing and the instruction to go into lockdown, but was aware from chatting to other agents that some deals had, whether directly related to the virus or something else it could not be said. ‘I’m confident there is still a lot of interest in the housing market and demand has not slowed in the last three weeks,’ he added.

‘[At the moment] conveyancers and surveyors cannot visit properties to complete their relevant title checks and surveys to ensure the bank are satisfied with agreeing a mortgage, so again it’s like somebody has hit pause, [but we’re] still getting daily enquiries from interested buyers and I have been asked by a few clients for valuations in the last two days alone.

‘They all understand that we can’t do anything at the moment but we are creating waiting lists on properties, so we can book in viewings as soon as the situation allows.’

Mr Roberts added his advice was to be patient.

‘Anybody who is currently selling or buying, be patient, it is likely there will be delays with ongoing transactions but I would not panic at this stage,’ he said.

‘I imagine there will be an influx of new properties available and a number of existing properties snapped up when normal service resumes. There are still a lot of eager buyers out there.’

This was confirmed by Swoffers director Andre Austin, who said sales were still ongoing.

‘It was an incredible start to the year with exceptional volumes of sales and that has carried on pretty much until the week before last, but even this week we have still been negotiating on a couple of sales during lockdown,’ he said.

‘Obviously now we are unable to do viewings, but the houses that are under offer at the moment are continuing to progress, albeit we are waiting for confirmation of the logistics of how sales will complete during lockdown. Clearly any new sales are unlikely whilst we are in lockdown and we cannot predict what the situation might be in the near future.’

Mr Austin said in the last week they had agreed nine Local Market sales, with the previous week seeing 11.

However, Mawson Collins director Mike Collins said they had seen sales and lettings dramatically decrease, but added it could not be entirely indicative of the market itself as sales was not a huge part of their business and remained hopeful of a return to the norm.

‘The current situation presents many challenges which are changing day to day,’ he said.

‘Understandably sales and lettings viewings have ceased overnight although we would hope the interest and intentions to sell and buy will largely remain albeit paused. Optimistically, this period may allow everyone to consider their long-term intentions and perhaps prepare their properties ready to kick-start the market when restrictions are lifted. The stance of the banks and lenders will play a vital part in this as confidence will need to be reinstated and sensible lending offered.’

The estate agents said they are currently in dialogue with the States.

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