Malcolm Prescott, Managing Director
Like many Guild agents Webbers remained ‘virtually’ open and available to buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants throughout the lockdown with a virtual offering ensuring that sales were looked after, and clients informed throughout the suspension in the market. Since returning to the office the momentum has grown steadily with sales activity right across the 14 sales offices with no sign of a drop in prices reported by some ill-informed journalist!
With firm guidelines now in-place, Webbers presently report a viewing to sale ratio of less than 8:1, representing a significant fall from 12:1, pre-COVID. Recent figures also show an increase in instruction levels with 50 per cent of valuations now coming to the market and the average price now circa £260,000.
Webbers have been in property sales and lettings since 1924 and the company has experienced many changes and 2020 will be one of those years where we will look back and pinpoint when further progressive change swept across the profession. Those agents who grasp the moment and adapt will be the winners – virtual valuations, live viewings, on-line meetings with staff and clients common-place – the cream of agents will rise to the top.
Supply and demand imbalance
Since the relaxing of movement in the property world the rental market has been extremely busy with supply and demand imbalance starting to show and a definite increase in rents reported across the Webbers area. According to Webbers’ Head of Lettings, Lawrence Williams, there was a lull during the lockdown period due to the inability of people to move, however this pent-up demand is now clearly pushing rents up, with our average rent now standing at £825. The West Country is proving an excellent territory for investors, happily achieving circa five per cent yield and enjoying the convenience and comfort of longer tenancies. People are keen to put down roots and will typically rent for four to five years now.
Webbers have 14 sales and lettings offices across Devon, Somerset & Cornwall, with specialist new homes, commercial and auction departments.
Pictured property: Brand new waterside development in Barnstaple, Taw Wharf built by Pearce Homes – £285,000
Vic Tevari, Associate Director
Malixons is a traditional estate agency specialising in a high level of customer service offering house sales, lettings, development feasibility studies, accusations, probate and matrimonial valuations and sales. We are often asked about market conditions by the general public and often approached by the media given our vast experience.
Our local property market consists of families looking at three to four-bedroom homes that range in price from £550,000 to £600,000, we also have a lot of first-time buyers looking at two-bedroom flats ranging in price between £250,000 and £350,000. The average sales price in our area is around £450,000, with rental at approximately £1,700. The majority of the first-time buyers tend to move onto houses within three to six years of their first purchase. We find many buyers looking in South London and the outskirts as prices moving North into Central London are becoming increasingly unaffordable.
Clearly the market across the whole country is affected by COVID-19, however, during the lockdown there was an extremely high level of enquiries with buyers wanting to register their intentions to view when the lockdown had eased. Since the easing for our business we have had many buyers out viewing, obviously following our strict coronavirus guidelines, and keen to buy. The tail end of last year’s market was held back by buyers and sellers waiting for a clearer picture on Brexit and awaiting the results of the Election on December 12th. With all that out of the way by January 2020 the market had taken off with signs of a busy spring market to come. This was then suppressed by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown that followed. In my opinion, we are seeing the spring market pushing into summer due to what I believe is pent up demand and people having for even more reasons to move now.
Pictured property: Darcy Road, London SW16 – Guide price £490,000 to £540,000
Philip Jackson, Director
Our offices have been fully open from the day the market reopened on 13 May, but we are continuing to have two departments with our Property Management and Accounts mainly working from home. Since the market reopened the lettings market in our area has seen a surge of activity which is continuing. This was anticipated based on the large numbers of enquires we were receiving during lockdown. The sales market is improving weekly, both in terms of viewings taking pace and offers being made. We feel that confidence is steadily coming back which is evidenced in the numbers.
Before the lockdown, we had a very busy early spring sales market. The current position is understandably quieter, however, there is pool of new instructions coming forward, which will undoubtedly attract serious interest. There continues to be a shortage of some types of City Centre stock and we know from experience that those properties will readily sell. The lockdown has highlighted the need to move to bigger or better located homes.
Coping with covid
We are settling into the ‘new normal’ with everyone very aware of social distancing and not shaking hands. We are finding that everyone is very mindful of safety, but in reality, most are seeing property visits at no greater risk than their trips to the supermarket.
To put people’s minds at rest, along with social distancing, we have hand sanitiser readily available and arrive early for appointments to wipe down door handles and surfaces likely to be touched. While we are not doing virtual tours of properties, we are finding that applicants are shortlisting properties better by taking advantage of the videos now on many of our properties, both being to let and for sale. This greatly minimises the number of physical viewings conducted.
Overall, there is continuing confidence in Birmingham as a major City. This is coming from the likes of the HS2 investment, to the Commonwealth Games in 2022. Recent big relocations from several major PLCs, notably BT and HSBC is attracting investor interest looking for buy- to-let type investments.
Pictured property: Two-bedroom loft apartment in the Jewellery Quarter – £625,000