Confined at home but freed from the daily commute, lockdown had a huge impact on how millions of families live. No longer tied to where they work, homeowners realised it was possible to have more space and a garden.
Property websites Rightmove and Zoopla reported record traffic as would-be buyers sought to make that dream a reality. It remains to be seen whether this represents a fundamental shift in behaviour, away from cities and towards a work-from-home culture. Much depends on the future of the office – and the race for a vaccine.
For the past week, i have running a series of articles on “the New Normal” across retail, offices and the aviation sector, among others. I contributed one on the property market – but the truth is that there is no “normal” yet.
Instead, it is stuck in stasis, detached from the economic reality. For the property market, at least in the short term, lockdown and its aftermath had an instant effect. As soon as restrictions were loosened, estate agents reported a huge spike in demand for homes in the countryside and cities’ outer commuter belts.
Combined with a stamp duty holiday and pent-up demand left over from the “Boris Bounce” after last year’s general election, this psychological boost has created a mini-boom. This will be seen on our billboard campaign this month.
You could argue that this sense of uncertainty is the new normal – an expectation that house prices will fall at some point this year or next, when the recession catches up once the stamp duty holiday ends and unemployment rises.
It also represents a new attitude for many buyers, in which the psychological effects of lockdown and the pandemic outweigh economic concerns. And it further entrenches the divide between those who can get finance – largely people who already have a stake in the market – and those who can’t.
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