The Government’s announcement that new build development sites and marketing suites could re-open was very welcome news to our business; we’re sure this resonated with all house builders. We have strict safety measures in place, and health and safety remain our top priority to allow a safe environment for those visiting our developments and for staff.
Before Covid-19 hit, we, like many developers and estate agents, had seen a massive increase in sales enquiries and sales generally in January/February, where demand outstripped supply. The next 3 months still saw offers being made and accepted and some contracts were still exchanged but the market was not buoyant, as one would expect.
Since the announcement, we have been swamped with a surge of enquiries and we are facing the challenge (nice though it is) of responding to clients, setting up pre-booked socially distanced viewings and trying to get as much virtual content online as we can.
It seems that properties in Cumbria, and indeed the north west region, have become the place to live – along with the south west – given the quality of life, beautiful scenery, outdoor space, and a quieter life. Buyers priorities have shifted as they realise they can work from home and it therefore doesn’t matter as much if their workplace is commutable. The location of our new build schemes offers these attributes and more. In addition, many of our house types have a separate study, benefit from good wifi and connectivity, and gardens are turfed and come with the opportunity to put your own stamp on (although we can help with landscaping), making them the ideal option to embrace the new ‘working from home’ trend. Cumbria’s housing market offers better value for money than many other counties and it is also less fickle in terms of the highs and lows that our Southern counterparts experience.
We haven’t seen a noticeable change in asking prices (again Cumbria is less affected by major swings in values). That said we have lost nearly 3 months of sales and we therefore have stock plots that we can offer 5% gifted deposit on (usual terms and conditions apply) – this will help to keep the market moving and enable us to start building on our two new sites at Rheda and Cumwhinton.
One of the differences to come out of the current situation, as opposed to that of the 2008 downtown, is that mortgage rates remain at an all-time low, enabling the market to recover at a quicker rate. Even within a couple of weeks we have seen banks and building societies increase their mortgage offerings, albeit not to the same level as we have seen, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Another positive is that less than 3% of properties have been withdrawn from the market during the pandemic and over a quarter of people (28%) who were not planning a move before lockdown are now entering the market; pent up demand will sustain prices.
In summary, our website hits, enquiries via both phone and email are encouraging and we have sold nine houses in four weeks. Looking at the housing market and its indicators such as newly released mortgage schemes, lenders catching up on physical valuations and demand versus supply, there are reasons to be cheerful. It looks like buyers are seeing new build as a more viable option due to their newness/never been lived in before and the blank canvas that they offer.
In a world where we often focus on the negatives, let the way forward be to focus on the positives.