Despite a third national lockdown, the UK government has stated that the property industry, including the housing market, can remain up and running. This means you are able to sell your home right now. But is it safe to do so? Or is it better to wait?
There is a reasonable school of thought which says, now that we have two Covid-19 vaccines being rolled out to the public, it’s best to wait until Covid is dead and gone before putting your home on the market. Better safe than sorry.
However, with the housing market busier than ever and average values at an all time high, if you wait too long to put your home on the market, you risk missing out on a substantial amount of money should prices fall from where they are.
With valid arguments on both sides, it’s worth diving down and examining some specific aspects of the issues in more detail. Starting with whether or not it can be considered safe to put your home on the market right now.
Does the home selling process put me at risk?
We believe that, when done correctly, it is safe to sell your home today. There will, however, be some added inconvenience.
All estate agents have been given clear guidance on the safety measures they should be taking when conducting viewings of your home. You should be given a copy of this guidance. To ensure that viewings are safe, the number of people in your home at any one time should be kept to a minimum – the agent and one or two viewers, so long as the viewers are members of the same household.
The agent must provide masks for everyone, should they not bring their own. The agent should have hand sanitiser and sanitiser spray, being sure to use both liberally. All doors should be left open throughout the home to minimise surface contact and guests should be careful not to touch anything at all. If they do, the agent must clean it.
Basically, your agent is responsible for the safety of everyone involved, including you. When they act correctly, the whole process should be almost risk free (but not entirely risk free).
Will house prices fall if I wait to sell?
Prices are at an all time high. The average UK home now costs more than £250,000 for the first time on record. This is due to extraordinary buyer demand as people seek to take advantage of the government’s stamp duty holiday.
This holiday is scheduled to end on March 31st. The pandemic is not expected to be over by then. It’s not even certain that lockdown will be over by then. So, if you’re waiting for it to be 100% safe to sell your home, the holiday may be over and demand may have dropped.
Basic laws of commerce tell us that less demand equals lower value. There is, however, a chance that the government will extend the SDLT holiday beyond March. They have already demonstrated how important they believe housing to be to the UK economy in this difficult time by allowing the industry to remain open. It’s reasonable to think they might extend the holiday if they believe it will bolster the economy.
After the SDLT holiday, by how much will values fall?
Many people predicted that the original lockdown would cause house prices to crash. The opposite was true which, without boasting, is exactly what our in-house property expert, Russel Quirk, said would happen.
Today, many are still predicting that values will fall in 2021, but we’re not so sure. There is a good chance that the vaccine rollout will prompt many people who have thus far resisted selling to finally feel safe to do so. We have no idea how many people this might include. It could be hugely significant.
Second, demand is not only high right now because of the SDLT holiday. We must also consider the vast number of people who are moving because lockdown has left them craving something new. This isn’t going to change.
So, even with no stamp duty relief, demand, and therefore value, should be stable.
What about Brexit and the long-lasting Covid-induced economic woes?
Brexit should not take any negative hold on house prices. In fact, prices are now 13% up on where they were before the referendum. With a deal now secured, values should remain unaffected throughout the leaving process.
As for wider economic struggles, only twice in modern history have UK house prices truly slumped. First in the 1990s after Margaret Thatcher overheated the economy and inflation skyrocketed, second following the global financial crash of 2007-8.
In both cases, however, repossessions played a big part in house prices crashing. People couldn’t pay their mortgages so their homes were taken away. With Covid-19, the UK government has instructed mortgage lenders to suspend or reduce repayments for those who cannot afford them as a result of lost income during the pandemic. This should go a long way to stemming the number of repossessions.
Furthermore, residential property isn’t the only industry thriving in this difficult time. Technology and online services/retail are among other strong-performers. So, even though hospitality, highstreet retail, and entertainment/arts are in a very bad place, there are still pillars of strength throughout the economy.
So, should I sell or wait?
Why rely on projections and predictions when you can act on current facts?
House prices are currently higher than ever. Demand is through the roof. It’s a superb time to sell your home. If you’ve already decided that you’re going to do it at some point in the near future, you should definitely do it now. We can project stable house prices as much as we like, but can never truly know what’s coming our way.
Furthermore, you can feel safe doing it. Agents are taking extreme precautions and physical contact can be kept at a minimum.
Now get out of here and get your home on the market.