The Peterborough Property Market Post-Lockdown – The First 100 Days.

With only around 1 in 7 Peterborough house sellers actually selling their home in the last month, Peterborough sellers and buyers will need to continue to be pragmatic if the surprisingly strong current levels of activity in the Peterborough property market are to be sustained.

To start, we had the once in a lifetime event of the credit crunch in 2008, we then had another once in a lifetime event with the Brexit vote in 2016 and now the mother of all ‘once in a lifetime’ events, Coronavirus in 2020 – three once in a lifetime events in the space of 3 Olympic Games!

The doom-mongers forecast that the British property market would drop like a lead balloon on the scale of the 1989 housing crash (where property values dropped by 30.87% in a couple of years) but would be nothing compared to the tsunami that was Covid. Yet in the first 100 days of the property market coming out of lockdown, behavioural and economic changes mean that many Peterborough homebuyers are now even more dedicated to moving home and the Peterborough property market is doing quite well.

Going into lockdown, the effect on activity in the Peterborough property market during those two months was expectable and predictable as it was placed in suspended animation during April and May. When the Peterborough property market re-opened in mid-May, nobody predicted what happened next. Of course, many of us in the property industry estimated some release of pent-up demand from the Boris Bounce, yet nobody anticipated such a ricochet in activity in the Peterborough property market.

This is particularly interesting when one considers GDP dropped by 20.4% in Q2 2020 (fascinating when compared to notable historic times when it dropped by 13.8% in WW2 and 16.7% in WW1), yet amidst the largest contraction in the UK economy ever in a single quarter, what wasn’t expected was an increase of potential property buyers and property sellers wanting to move post lockdown.

Some have cited this boost to the property market on a number of factors. Firstly, we have had the Stamp Duty Holiday, others have pointed at the never seen before 0.1% Bank of England base rates making mortgages cheap, then we had the furlough scheme which protected so many jobs and finally, the pent-up demand from the Boris Bounce.

Yet, when one actually talks with Peterborough buyers and sellers, whilst all of them cite one or two of the above reasons, all of them mention and talk about how the lockdown has made them re-evaluate and reconsider how they want to live, their work-life balance and where they want to live. This is also reflected with tenants changing their requirements when looking for a property to rent (so Peterborough landlords – be aware of this).

Demand for apartments in the centre of Peterborough has eased off, whilst demand for property with a good-sized garden or other outside space has increased. One question we get asked all the time is also the broadband speeds, although they are quite decent in Peterborough (the average broadband in our local Council area being 58.6 Mbps download and 14.6 Mbps upload).

So, with record numbers of Peterborough properties coming on to the market – is it boom time for Peterborough homeowners?

Of the 740 properties that have come onto the market in Peterborough over the last month, only 111 of them have agreed a sale (a percentage of 15%)

That means around 6 out of 7 Peterborough people that have placed their property onto the market have not found a buyer yet.

Yes, the Peterborough property market is good, yet the number of people who have placed their property on the market has also gone up. Peterborough estate agents have never been so busy putting property on the market and I feel sorry for the chap who is putting up all the for-sale boards – his wife hasn’t seen him in daylight for weeks!

But that does mean you are in competition with so many other properties on the market (the number of properties coming on to the market typically at this time of the year is about a third to half less). The Stamp Duty boost ends in March 2021, so that means you need to have found a buyer by November at the very latest. By overegging your asking price, to test the market, might mean you will lose out on this hiatus and could end up missing the boat!

The prices being achieved for the Peterborough properties that have been selling have been fair and realistic and have stood up much better than many were originally predicting.

Yet as the country looks forward, given the ambiguous nature of the outlook for the British economy and the possibility that Covid-19 may be with us for a little while yet, I must implore Peterborough property sellers to be realistic with their asking price so a greater number of you who want to make the move, are able to do so.

The Peterborough Post Lockdown Property Market

What have we learned in the first month?

From talking to most of the Peterborough estate and letting agents and our own findings, it might surprise many of you that new enquiries from homebuyers, tenants, landlords and home sellers have been at record levels since lockdown was lifted from the property market in mid-May.

There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly we had the pent-up demand for Peterborough property from the Boris Bounce in January and February. Next, many Peterborough people were planning to move this spring yet were prevented doing so because of lockdown, and finally, surprisingly, an advance wave of home movers seeking to bring their Peterborough moving plans forward because of a fear of a second Covid-19 wave later in the year.

So, what does all that look like and how does it compare to the last 12/18 months?

Data from Yomdel, the live chat and telephone answering service for a quarter of UK estate and letting agents, is able to track objective and more current information from across the UK on what is really happening. Each week, they are dealing with thousands of enquiries including:

  • Seller enquiries (i.e. house sellers looking to put their property on the market)
  • Buyer enquiries (i.e. people looking to view a property on the market with the intention of buying it)
  • Landlords enquiries (i.e. landlords looking for tenants for their rental property)
  • Tenant enquiries (i.e. people looking to view a property on the market with the intention of renting it)

They have created a rolling weekly average of those enquiries for the whole of the UK for the 62 weeks before the country went into lockdown. Then they compared that 62 week average with specific time frames, namely the 10 weeks of the run up to the General Election, the 8 weeks of Post Boris Bounce in January and February 2020, the weeks of lockdown in March, April and early May and then finally, from mid-May, the post lockdown.

You might ask why tracking estate and letting agency enquiries is so important?

Enquiries in letting and estate agencies are the beating heart of the property market – they are the ECG machine of the estate and letting agency. Of course house price data has it’s place and is lauded by the national press as the bellwether of the property market, yet it takes 6 to 9 months for the effects of what is happening today to show in those house price indexes, whilst these enquiries are what is happening now.

Have a look at the data in the graph and table, it can be seen in the 8 weeks up to the General Election, every metric was down. Next, the post Boris Bounce saw house seller and house buyer leads increase yet note how low tenant enquiries were (hardly any change from the run up to the election), everything dipped during lockdown as expected, yet look at all the metrics post lockdown … amazing! (e.g. if a number in the graph/table below is say -25%, that means its 25% below the rolling 62 week average, yet if it were +20%, then that would mean it would be 20% more than the rolling 62 week average)

 General Election Run UpPost Boris
Bounce
LockdownPost Lockdown
Seller Enquiries-27.0%20.6%-41.9%94.3%
Buyer Enquiries-19.9%12.9%-9.3%163.7%
Landlord Enquiries-10.9%1.0%-27.6%78.5%
Tenant Enquiries-34.9%-27.2%-23.1%92.5%

The numbers speak for themselves!

So, what is happening in the Peterborough property market? Well, there is plenty of activity in the Peterborough property market, yet that doesn’t mean everything is back to normal. Enquiries are an important metric, yet another way to judge the health of the property market is to look at the number of property transactions (i.e. people moving).

Now the Land Registry data isn’t quite as exhilarating, yet it is less volatile. Nationally, it shows that property transactions were at their lowest level since its records began in April 2005. The seasonally adjusted estimate of UK residential property transactions in April and May 2020 was 90,210, 53.4% lower than the 193,500 transactions of April and May 2019. Again though, this was because of the restrictions on moving during Covid-19. The stats for Peterborough are still to be released yet rest assured I will share them in due course.

Looking again at what is happening now, when I look at the number of properties for sale…

316 Peterborough properties have come onto the property market in the last 14 days alone, and of those, 42 are already sold subject to contract

So, what of the future of the post-lockdown Peterborough housing market? While a stern recession seems almost guaranteed, a housing market crash is not. Many newspapers are predicting property values to fall in 2020, then rise reticently from the ashes in 2021. The fact is, nobody knows. The property market is driven a lot by sentiment. Buying a home is not like buying stocks and shares – it’s a home to live in … and those Peterborough landlords who are looking for an investment opportunity, often let their heart rule the head (again sentiment) when investing in property.

Property always has, and always will be a long-term investment. Many Peterborough people reading this, especially potential Peterborough first time buyers, have been putting off buying your first home because of Brexit, now its Covid-19, and in a few years, it will be something else. There will always be ‘something else’… and you could get to your 50’s and 60’s, still renting, waiting for the ‘next thing’ to pass before you buy … and end up buying nothing.

Nobody knows what the months or years ahead will bring … yet what I do know is, people will always need a place to live. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments. Tell us what your experiences are as a Peterborough landlord or homeowner, tenant or buyer so we can all learn from each other.