London property sales market – review of 2020

2020 has been a rollercoaster of a year for property sales in London – from the lockdown in March which saw the housing market shut down completely, to Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s temporary Stamp Duty holiday which has prompted a surge in activity, boosting demand from London homebuyers.

Since the market reopened, the UK property market has been defying wider economic uncertainty and we are continuing to see momentum build, even during the second, most recent lockdown. The hunger to buy property is definitely back!

Transaction levels up – statistics from HMRC

Since the summer, we have been seeing transaction levels increasing steadily as buyers return to the market, with pent-up demand from both international investors and domestic homebuyers, created by the shutdown of the housing market in March 2020.

Our experience is echoed by HMRC statistics which estimate that 98,010 residential property transactions completed in September 2020 (nationally), 21.3% higher than August 2020.

The boost to the market is also a result of the temporary increase in the Stamp Duty Land Tax nil rate band (for properties valued at up to £500,000), which has been saving homebuyers up to £15,000 on their property purchase.

What are homebuyers looking for?

Much of this increased demand has been from domestic homebuyers looking for more space, larger homes and more outside space, as their requirements have changed due to the shift towards working from home.

Although while some professionals currently living in central London are looking at a move to the London suburbs or the country, we continue to see many professionals who love living in central London and are now looking at making their first property purchase, using the Stamp Duty holiday to boost their finances and help them make their first step onto the property ladder.

These buyers recognise that a ‘normal’ working life, going back into the office, will return at some point, so being close to their place of work, perhaps within walking distance, and to busy cafes, bars and nightlife, is the life they want, now perhaps more than ever.

Demand for London residential properties post-lockdown

Generally, since the housing market reopened in June, demand for residential properties in London has been exceptional. Even during the first lockdown, enquiries bubbled away as buyers planned potential purchases and carried on doing their research, even though no physical viewings were possible.

Buy-to-let investors, first time buyers and homeowners looking to upgrade to a larger home have all been driving the demand and we’re seeing a mix of domestic and European buyers as well as international investors.

In particular, our Hong Kong office has been seeing a noticeable uplift in enquiries from individuals looking to buy a property in London since the announcement of the BN(O) passport holders’ eligibility for UK residency.

And while we have been selling properties at all price points, from entry level homes to high end properties, the price bracket up to £500,000 continues to be the busiest and we expect this to continue.

Adapting to a new way of buying and selling homes

Of course, we have been working hard to adapt to new ways of working throughout the pandemic and technology has been key. Virtual tours have become an even more important part of our toolkit.

We now offer a full video tour for all our properties which reduces the number of physical viewings necessary and helps potential buyers get a real feel for a property before they decide to view it in person. We have even had offers agreed on properties by buyers who had only seen the video tour, such is their determination to move forward with their plans.

The recent surge in demand has recently been causing a bit of a bottleneck in terms of getting conveyancing and building surveys carried out so we are encouraging buyers and sellers to move as quickly as possible to ensure they beat the Stamp Duty holiday deadline on March 31st next year.

Looking forward to 2021

The housing market has proved to be extremely resilient this year and with three new vaccines likely to be rolled out early in the New Year, we expect consumer confidence to remain strong.

And while the winter months are usually quieter, as life returns to some sort of normality over the next few months’ we expect demand for homes in 2021 to remain strong, albeit less frenetic than at the moment.

If you are looking to buy or sell a property in London, please contact our sales branch who will be happy to assist or get in touch with one of our international offices who have sales consultants on hand to advise you.

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About the Author

A board director since 2001, Marc oversees the company’s London rentals operation as well as marketing and developing strategies for new business. He has been instrumental in the company’s expansion, working closely with managing director Anita Mehra to develop its core services and frequently co-hosts property seminars for investors in many international locations. Read more about Marc von Grundherr here - Read full profile

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