Q: How is the current property market?
A: The residential property market has been very stable recently and we have seen a significant increase in activity in the first two months of this year, compared with recent ones. On 9th March, one of the UK’s largest lenders, Halifax, released their monthly house price index, which indicates an annual increase in house prices of 2.8 per cent, with a month on month increase of 0.3 per cent. According to Halifax data, the average UK property price is now £240,677 compared with £234,234 in the same period last year. These figures are supported by a positive update from the Bank of England, reporting a 7.1 per cent year on year increase in the number of mortgages approved for property purchases so far in 2020. At Homes, our sales numbers are up very positively and the general local sentiment with sellers and buyers, as well as Lettings customers, appears to be one of much increased confidence.

Q: How might Coronavirus affect the property market?
A: Although the impact of Brexit on the housing market appears to have receded for the moment, there have been rumblings this week around how much, if at all, the outbreak of Coronavirus could negatively influence resurgent consumer confidence around moving home. There is certainly pent-up demand, with sellers taking advantage of this right now, further bolstered by the no nonsense approach from the Government in the recent budget. These steps should help to alleviate financial concerns associated with Coronavirus. Whilst we hope that these positive trends continue, Brexit isn’t done yet and Coronavirus just adds a further reason to be cautious to those who are sensitive about market blips. Certainly the potential for foreign buyers to be hit by currency and stock market fluctuations due to the Coronavirus could negatively impact their buying power and potentially cause an issue with liquidity at the upper end of the market. The broader view across the industry is that house prices are on a continued upwards trajectory, but it remains to be seen how much of an impact the unexpected hurdle of Coronavirus is going to have on the market. There might be a down turn in levels of instructions and viewing activity in the short term but, unless the UK is forced into significant lock-down measures in the coming weeks, the likelihood is that this will blow over as we return to a state of normality in a matter of a few months as the medical professionals are suggesting should happen.

Q: What advice are we giving to customers on appointments and what practical measures are we adopting?
A: Now, more so than ever, it’s important to give all our sellers and landlords the opportunity to have their property viewed without having to be there. We understand that all customers will wish for a process of due hygiene diligence to be followed during the viewing and that’s where we can help. We will ensure that we take a disinfectant, anti-bacterial hand spray, plus disposable towels to all viewings and, before leaving, we will wipe down all external and internal door handles which may have been touched during the viewing. This cleaning spritz should also include flat surfaces in highly vulnerable areas such as kitchens and bathrooms, just to be on the safe side. Disposable towels will be placed in a plastic bag and taken away to be disposed of later and not left at the property.

Q: What will we do if we think one of our customers appears to be unwell or suffering from flu-like symptoms?
A: If we suspect this, whether it relates to the property owner or a viewer, then it will make sense to postpone any appointments until they are fully recovered. We are confident both parties will see the sense in doing this.

Q: What is our policy on shaking hands with customers at the moment?
A: There is no need for anyone to have to shake hands with each other at the moment, and it is only polite and sensible that we let our customers know this protocol on first meeting and greeting. A friendly smile will suffice, or maybe a touch of elbows for those who want physical contact.