Press Round-Up September 2020
UK house prices rose by 5 per cent in September compared to the same month last year, boosted by pent-up demand following lockdown, according to Nationwide building society. Jeremy Leaf, principal of Jeremy Leaf & Co, told The Sun: ‘Certainly, increased restrictions and the unwinding of the furlough scheme will have some impact on confidence but not much at the moment.’ He explained further in The Telegraph: ‘Of just as much concern to our buyers, and particularly those vital first-time buyers, is mortgage accessibility with lenders running the risk of reducing activity in the market at a time when it is so vital to the economy generally.’
HMRC figures also show that transactions are on the rise, with a 15.6 per cent jump in the number of deals in August. Jeremy Leaf told The Daily Mail: ‘Transactions are a better barometer of market health than more volatile house prices. On the ground, we have noticed no sign of sales collapsing, renegotiating on deals or price reductions in the past few days – more of a determination to carry on.'
Mortgage approvals also leapt in August, to their highest monthly level for nearly 13 years, according to the Bank of England, driven by government help during the pandemic and a rush to buy outside cities. Jeremy Leaf told The Guardian that the figures showed the impact of the stamp duty changes in July which had ‘transformed the market which had been in the doldrums post-Covid’. He added that there were ‘a few signs of that upsurge running out of steam’ following concerns over the spread of the virus. He believes prices will remain subdued as extra sale listings met demand and buyers, nervous about the path of the pandemic, refusing to overpay.
Average asking prices for London homes continue to rise despite uncertainty about the spread of Covid-19. Jeremy Leaf told The Evening Standard that he is seeing a two-tier market developing in his part of north London, with demand strongest for family-sized houses and weakest for starter flats. ‘Buyers are upsizing locally and we have also noticed a continuation of the trend of people living in smaller properties in Zones 2 and 3 – such as Islington, Kentish Town and Tufnell Park, moving out to Zones 4 and 5. Further out, they get better value for money and meet their aspirations in terms of additional space and home working, plus the proximity to parks and better walks.’
More historic data also confirmed this upwards momentum, with average UK house price jumping by £8,000 in June, according to the Office for National Statistics data. Jeremy Leaf told The Mirror: ‘These figures highlight the resilience of the property market and the strength of pent-up demand even as we were recovering from lockdown and before the announcement of the stamp duty holiday.’ He felt the rises would continue: ‘We are being told repeatedly that this mini-boom will not continue as the job retention scheme unwinds and unemployment rises but we’re not seeing many signs of that on the ground,’ he said. ‘If anything, the market is being more restrained by lender caution and lack of capacity to deal with the number of inquiries rather than demand fizzling out.’
A no-deal Brexit is looking ever more likely as the deadline of 31 December draws closer. Jeremy Leaf told The Telegraph that previous problems for the property market that were caused by the uncertainty since the Brexit referendum ‘pale into insignificance’ in the face of coronavirus.