Surge in enquiries signals North West residential property market bounce

A surge in house purchase instructions and sale enquiries at a Greater Manchester law firm and estate agents is giving the first glimmers of a reactivation of the residential property market in the North West.

Slater Heelis, which has offices in Sale, Timperley and Manchester city centre, said it has seen enquiries return to almost pre-lockdown levels in May following the almost complete shutdown of new enquiries in April.

Zara Banday, partner and head of residential property at Slater Heelis, said: “We have certainly seen an upswing in enquires in the past fortnight with levels hopefully heading towards pre-lockdown levels.

“Residential markets tend to be fuelled by confidence and we certainly see positive signs of a market bounce emerging in the North West and beyond.”

She added: “The lockdown affected the residential market in a number of ways with transactions unable to complete and exchange of contracts on hold due to the logistical blockage on moving house whilst maintaining social distancing.

“Viewings were also impossible during this period and were among the first raft of lockdown changes brought in by the Government.

“Sales could be progressed through land searches and conveyancing as many solicitors have maintained services through remote working. However, market uncertainty has been a likely cause of market freeze.”

Following the reintroduction of viewings by the Government, there has been a reported increase in viewings and registered buyers.

Zara Banday said: “What we think is driving these new enquiries is that people have taken the time during lockdown to reflect on their current situation and many have come to the conclusion that they need additional, or in some cases, separate living space.

“It’s likely that lockdown, or some form of flexible home working, is going to continue for some time for a great many people and we’re seeing more people looking for larger properties, or properties with development potential, to allow for the creation of better homeworking facilities.

“It is also a sad fact of the pandemic situation that probate sales will rise as bereaved families settle the affairs of their loved ones.”

The positive signs are welcome news for the sector which plays such a pivotal role in the nation’s economic activity. However, it is far from certain that the market has put the lockdown shock behind it entirely.

Data for Greater Manchester from Rightmove shows that detail views for property are now back at the same level it was pre-lockdown, in early March and that both these levels of online views are 16% higher than the same time last year.

Buyers will typically view properties online multiple times, so the uplift in online views is an early indicator of increasing demand.

Zara Banday said: “With so many people so uncertain about their future employment status, we won’t have a true reflection of the market until at least the Autumn. We’d like to see the market stimulated by central government through the form of a stamp duty holiday on larger homes.

“Married to the type of enquiry we’re seeing, this move could provide a real shot in the arm for the market and really help get the economy moving again.

“The introduction of the highly speculated stamp duty holiday from the Government would stimulate the market and kick-start sales in larger homes in the North West, with stamp duty on a home worth £500,000 costing as much as £50,000.”

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