News: Online property searches return to pre-lockdown levels

Mon, 18 May 20

Online property searches have surged back to normal levels with Rightmove recording the highest number of unique enquiries in one day since September 2019 after the Government reopened the housing market last week. 

The property website said that within 24 hours of restrictions being lifted in England on Wednesday almost 5.2 million visits were recorded, up 4% on the same day last year.

Online activity levels suggest returning momentum following the surprise re-opening of the housing market last week. 

Miles Shipside, Rightmove director and housing market analyst comments: “The traditionally busy spring market was curtailed by lockdown, but we’re now seeing clear signs of returning momentum, with the existing desire to move now being supplemented by some people’s unhappiness with their lockdown home and surroundings. 

“Some may be unable or unwilling to move now, but those who are ready to take the plunge have jumped immediately into action.” 

He added: “The industry has been caught by surprise, as we were all expecting the housing market to stay closed until at least June.”

To control the spread of the virus, the government has produced housing-sector guidelines including stringent social distancing measures. 

As these are the new norm, home-movers and letting agents need to immediately adapt to the biggest ever changes in the way that homes are marketed and viewed. 

The government states that initial viewings should ideally be virtual, with technology allowing the use of a variety of video options. 

Shipside added: “These guidelines are understandably stringent to make sure the process can be carried out safely. It’s especially important for the recovery of transaction volumes that prospective buyers and existing and future sellers feel reassured enough to re-engage with their pent-up housing needs, but safety is the top priority for all and so it will take time. 

“All parties will have to be innovative to work effectively while adhering to these guidelines. There are many benefits, including freeing sellers of the need to maintain a constant state of tidiness and letting them avoid the frustration of no-shows often associated with frequent physical viewings. 

“High demand could lead to a boost in values for properties that offer inspiring home-working options. But on the other hand, the extra value for a property being close to a popular commuter route may diminish if working from home becomes the new norm. 

“We already saw some early signs of people enquiring more about out-of-city areas so it will be interesting to see if this leads to a change in where people choose to buy now the market has been unlocked.”

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