The coronavirus outbreak is having a far-reaching effect on our physical and mental health and is something that we haven’t seen in a century. The financial consequences are also far-reaching. Also, with the stimulus of the government, the situation before us is totally unpredictable, and every single one of us will be affected.
This Article is drawn up on 15 April 2020. It’s not going to be dark or gloomy. Quiet the other way around. What we would like to do is to help you conquer your conjecture and belief and find the data you need to navigate the UK property market throughout the year.
We will strive to distil the insights we’ve gleaned from the numerous discussions we’ve had, since the beginning of the lockdown, with stakeholders around the industry; from mortgage brokers to developers; new home builders to estate agents; auction firms to surveyors; buyers to sellers.
And from these discussions, at various levels of the industry, we may have learned a few things about how other businesses – other people – are working in the current situation; where they are risk-averse and where they are seeing positivity.
Combining this knowledge with our industry data sources has given us some insight into what we might all expect for the rest of 2020. And we express the hope that it will be useful for anyone who wants to have a more in-depth look into what the lockdown could mean for national and local housing markets in the medium term.
But, of course, even a strong mix of reference points, in the right sense and timeline, can’t help predict anything that’s coming our way. News and updates are coming every day. So, while it is important to try to anticipate to plan, it is equally essential to remain responsive to the possibility of change and to be able to adapt.
With that in mind, let’s look at what might happen for the rest of the year, beginning with the next few months and the rest of Spring, April and May.
Spring (April and May)
Market State: Constricted
The economy is expected to experience the greatest shock during this time due to the ongoing lockdown and forced closing of a significant number of businesses.
We might conclude that a lot of the property market is closed, not by desire or option. Both buyers and sellers who want to do business can not do business in the most conventional settings and locations.
Estate agents on the high street have seen their offices close, and although some of the team members working remotely-taking calls and questions and providing support-views are not feasible, and sales are impossible.
In the area of estate agency companies, a number of teams in the sector are furloughed with companies put on hold for the foreseeable, contributing to a heavy constriction of the market.
The industry is witnessing a significantly reduced volume of transactions across the board, with some industries seeing a decline of 30-50 per cent. This is not a price reduction, but a reduction in the total amount of properties sold.
Social distancing is definitely constraining the ‘traditional market’ where houses or apartments are sold to the buyer. But there is still a lot of activity in the investor market-where virtual viewing is more popular, where houses and apartments are sold off-plan, where houses are sold with tenants in situ and access has never been part of the deal anyway.
In several ways, it is worth noting that, even though viewing has fallen to almost zero in certain areas of the industry, the fact that sales are still going on is very encouraging. Homeowner transactions are still going on, and these are not only transactions that were near to completion before the lockdown took place, but are also from new enquiries since lockdown first began.
Markets do evolve and continue, even under immense stress – the UK housing market is no different. Forgive the simile, but the housing market is like a river, finding ways to keep flowing through whatever’s in its way.
As we would imagine, a large percentage of potential buyers in the conventional market, who don’t really ‘need’ to buy a house, are cautiously preserving their cash; hanging on and waiting to see what happens.
At the end of the day, many are not even quite sure what they’re waiting for. For others, it’s actually because of the state of uncertainty. By not wanting to make a mistake or the wrong decision, they’re not taking any decisions at all. In certain cases, this is absolutely the best thing to do, since the details about how long this lockdown may take and what happens after is far from clear.
There are signs that sanctions are being lifted in several countries. However, in the United Kingdom and as of today, there is still a great deal of uncertain quantity; with some predictions being that the lockdown is likely to be prolonged, at least until mid-May.
However, some people are still aggressively buying and, in spite of everything, that makes sense. In a world where all is unknown, assets have tangible value; offering much-needed shelter, housing and accommodation.
And our view on all this?
Whatever short-term disruptions and changes the market sees, we should look to the future where the fundamental desire for a home remains.
With uncertainty still prevalent among sellers also, supply is a real issue.
This means that there are far less properties on the market, and this constriction of supply limits the choices for those buyers who are interested. This causes a chain reaction that will have an effect on all future sellers who want to upsize or downsize.
With limited new products coming onto the market, even those sellers who want to sell are forced to sit back and wait as a shortage of products prevents them from seeking something else to buy and move to.
Signs of Growth or Renewal
It isn’t all bad news, and in this section of our blog post, we’re going to round up our review of each season with the green shoots (positive or possibilities) we’re seeing or expecting in 2020. Let’s hope these are things that will benefit the housing market and its stakeholders; something that can look forward to when you’re buying or selling properties.
And we’re still seeing interest from buyers right now.
People are always trying to buy. The investors we are talking to think very much in the mid to long term and are very involved in the long-term advantages of investing in property and having homes for their tenants.
And while the shock waves of current affairs will almost certainly be felt well into the future, it is the practical items of the very short term that are causing the most chaos.
We are noticing sellers who ‘must’ sell as soon as possible as they begin to adapt their perceptions to what is possible, and it is these property owners who will drive sales (and most of the market) forward in the summer, once we’re out of the lockdown (or at least out of the current phase). The reality is, in many situations, their need to sell would trump any short-term financial concern, with pace and certainty, as the big priorities for them.
In essence, the sellers are all asking themselves the same main questions:
- How long will a sale take?
- What kind of price is possible?
- What kind of person is going to be buying?
The answers to all these questions are, of course, somewhat uncertain, but house-buying companies and cash-buying investors are still very operational and able to purchase quickly from homeowners or other investors.
The answers are, therefore, as follows with regard to this particular type of market:
Cash-buyers will buy a property in just a couple of weeks.
Buyers would also have to negotiate with the best property at maximum market value. If it has great foundations, it has great potential and is seen as a long-term strategy. Those buyers who are trying to make a reduction bid in the area 85-90 percent of the market value of the deals they would like to purchase but do not need as they try to obtain an early sale.
Cash buyers are now and will still be preferable to mortgage buyers.
For our part, customers ask us frequently if it’s a good time to purchase. For the ‘ordinary’ properties, we prefer to recommend that they hang back and wait. And why rush in there?
But if the property fits the expectations and checks the boxes for a successful investment, it might still be a perfect time to purchase.
Because if you think a property could be perfect; in terms of yield, location, type of property, and terms, then if you wait, you risk missing the opportunity.
Right now, we see short-term investment in real estate (flipping and refurbishing projects) as the riskiest and most difficult-to-predict form of investment, but even now, if you take a medium-to-long-term view, buying property is still worth considering.
Summer (June to August)
Market State: Slow Release
There are a variety of stakeholders and business experts who are championing the possibility of a rapid boom back in the summer; the product of pent-up supply and demand. In other words, the idea goes that, at the first opportunity, sellers who couldn’t sell in the Spring and buyers who couldn’t buy would all move forward quickly.
Given our place in the property industry, it would be simple, convenient, and even lucrative for us to wish, hope, and rave about the same idea.
But looking at data from various comparison points; for the UK property market and the economies of countries around the world who are ahead of us in the Coronavirus timeline such as China, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong, we don’t think that’s going to be the way it’s going.
While we fully agree that pent up buyer demand is going to be there and have an impact, we feel that a scenario that sees a much slower release of operation is more likely.
There are going to be a lot of people who want to trade. There is going to be pent up demand. But volatility will continue to underpin the market (and the property market is a slow-moving ship). With large sums of money involved and, generally speaking, long timeframes to sale, purchasing property can not easily be compared to immediate transactions such as buying commodities or even trading in stocks and shares.
Trust and feeling are very much the engine that drives the housing market. There will always be a need, but demand will vary, seasonally and as a response to external factors, such as the virus.
But more than a question of demand, the property market has a specific balancing issue and, as such, we predict that the market will find it difficult to align expectations with costs.
In one aspect, what this suggests is that the prices of properties put on the market are likely to be very different from the sales prices currently obtained (thinking in terms of ‘typical’ sales by high street estate agents).
This would most likely be particularly true where the properties have been on the market for a long time and have been wrongly priced at too high a price, to begin with prior to the lockdown.
And yet, the fact is that not all fields of business will be affected equally.
For example, we can see that rental property and real estate, priced on yield, do not see any real shift in value as owners keep their assets and enjoy the benefits of income.
Land or properties in need of rehabilitation, on the other hand, already involve a competitive market to obtain a good price. So, this side of the market may have failed to return to the early 2020 prices.
What we are looking at in the summer is a price stand-off between buyers and sellers; in many parts of the industry and in some specific towns, cities and villages around the country. In our opinion, this factor will prevent there being a radical jump in the amount of transactions during this time, at the national level.
However, that’s a birds-eye-view.
Because of this pent-up demand, there will be movement, and some locations and some types of properties will return to normality; previous market levels and buoyancy.
There will still be some quality locations with quality properties that can be matched with willing buyers; homeowners looking to move; first-time buyers looking to get on the ladder.
And, of course, mainstream, yield-focused buyers, searching for properties to help them protect against a volatile market.
The surveyors may be a possible stumbling point for buyers. Also, with the best of intentions in the world; from buyers, sellers, agents and lenders, if surveyors are vigilant (and by nature), then valuations of property might be hit. This effect is unlikely to be at the magnitude of the 2008 financial crisis, but a reduced value of 5% or even 10% can make a real difference to a real property transaction.
It is therefore critical for buyers who plan to go ahead that they have ample capital to cover not only their acquisition costs but also some in reserve so that they can continue easily if they find that the property becomes more costly as they move forward because the property offered below its market value would draw the attention of other buyers willing to make higher bids.
It will be those sellers who have begun to change their preferences in April and May that will boost sales during the summer period.
Many developers and new-build construction companies who are highly leveraged have high holding costs, may need to sell their stock and could cut prices in an effort to make sales faster.
In the same part of the market, there are other developers who would have a reasonable amount of capital in their reserve, and these companies may want to keep their prices unchanged and ride out the storm.
Because of this, amongst other factors, we do not expect a large-scale decline in home prices. There will be some reductions, but these will be unique to certain locations, sectors of business, and even unique to the company selling the stock.
And as described above, ‘must sell’ owners, with reasonable aspirations, will push the market early, even those who suffer debt and divorce or, unfortunately, the death of a loved one.
Fundamentally, we agree that there will still be demand on the market throughout the summer.
Many other countries are seeing decreased purchases, but they are seeing sales without large-scale declines in property prices.
This crisis is clearly not and will not become the same as other recent recessions.
Buyers who have the means and the ability to buy-from homeowners to investors-will continue to progress.
The market might be slow to turn around with high-street estate agents, who will deal with ‘price-sensitive’ stocks, but we expect real-estate auctions and direct-to-developer sales to see an inflow of buyer-interest as buyers look to property as a way to diversify and therefore restrict their exposure to other markets and industries.
Autumn (September to November)
Market State: Unbalanced High Demand & Reduced Supply
Traditionally, autumn is the time of year that the United Kingdom’s housing market is at its height in terms of sales, house price increases and general development.
It’s a moment when, after the summer holidays, the public is back in their day-to-day lives, and more focused on their future, and there’s no particular reason why 2020 won’t see the same thing.
If the lockdown has ended entirely or is just partially in effect (say, rolling lockdowns and large-scale coronavirus testing) then people will be able to travel about and buy and sell land.
But while the means and the ability to trade would be there, there is also a potential for imbalances in supply and demand, due to almost two-quarters of restricted operation throughout the entire market, including fewer homes being constructed.
This inactivity could spread through all aspects of the industry-from delays in the supply of construction materials to development sites to the impacts caused by the closing of key businesses that would usually compete for the delivery of services and there will be unintended effects and problems.
Less availability of goods and services could lead to overflows of demand in certain areas and would not impact all areas of industry and geographical locations in a standardised manner.
If social distancing persists, even if temporary, then real estate agents will continue to be affected more so than, say, mortgage brokers (the latter being able to work electronically and the former also needing face-to-face interactions).
So, however, we look at it, the market could be sound in autumn, in theory, but bottlenecks are likely to occur around the industry.
Demand on the property market may well be back in autumn after a few months of relative inaction.
However, the process of acquisition, combined with a lack of supply of new properties, may still prove to be somewhat constrained. Ordinarily, what a situation like this would lead to would be an increase in property prices.
However, it is unlikely that demand will return to pre-lockdown levels, which means that we could well see parity between supply and demand.
Although it would be possible that a lot of people who wanted to buy but couldn’t get on the market for a number of months would all be entering the market at once, we can’t ignore the fact that a lot of people’s financial circumstance is going to be affected, as there would be those who would otherwise have purchased, who are no longer in a financial position to do so.
Even though buyers may be ready-to-buy and have the resources to do so, they may find access to financing a limiting factor.
Unlike in 2008, which was a credit and liquidity crisis, there is still capital available for lending. However, we are already seeing a decline in the availability of mortgage services, and while banks will have the desire and the willingness to lend, something will change. It is more than likely that this would entail a reduced loan to value.
Unlike late 2019 and early 2020, when mortgages of 75 per cent or even 80 per cent for buy to let buyers will be commonplace, we could be looking at 50-60 per cent for conventional products as banks try to hedge against other risks.
It will, therefore be the consumers in a good financial position who will be driving transactions in this marketplace.
By autumn, some of the sellers would have delayed the decision to sell for several months. Some of them, worried about Brexit, might even have been wary about going ahead after 2019.
Sellers, now, may be eager to test the demand.
With decreased transaction rates from Spring and the market still playing catch-up, we would expect to see a rise in ‘homeowner’ properties going on sale. This is likely to see a rise in available properties by high-street estate agents.
And still, in the wake of the lockdown era, there is likely to be a major reduction in the brands of the estate agency, which you might be used to. For the reasons we have already outlined, estate agents are especially vulnerable in the current climate.
What is most likely to replace a number of these on-the-high-street agents are one-person agents; self-employed consultants who could bring a new approach to the market and who are in a position to offer new user experience for buyers and sellers who opt for their services.
Property investors will be very involved in the autumn. Some of them, having kept their cash throughout the Spring and Summer months, will now be looking to make their move.
Value-driven assets would have a lot of interest and high yields, and already-income-generating properties will also have an appeal.
Mixed-use residential/commercial areas that have weathered the storm well will also be pursued for residential properties with secure tenant demographics (such as key-workers or students) in famous university cities.
Which Towns And Cities In The UK Are Best For Property Investment?
The beginning of the year may not have gone as expected for some investors, but most are ready to get the property market back on track now. Choosing the perfect location is the best place to start a profitable investment in real estate.
There are a range of different methods to determine the ‘right’ place for investment in properties. London has traditionally been a sure bet for many investors. House prices have risen exponentially over the last few decades, although they have slowed down in recent years.
Currently, more developers and investors, both in the United Kingdom and abroad, prefer to look at more peripheral and geographical areas of the United Kingdom. Much of this approach is focused on consistent statistics that support both higher available yields and stronger house price gains in some areas away from the capital. Though London is still a very popular investment spot, several other locations are seeing far higher returns.
Andrew Ward, founder of Solomon New Homes, claims that secondary and tertiary markets will be “at the core of the bounce-back of the property market.” He had spoken to a Property Investor Today about why investors must always look at various location.
We know that even before the pandemic, yields in Central London were pretty poor even if the economy picks up, it’s likely to be a long time before yields become competitive with those in other parts of the United Kingdom.
“We are also seeing an increasing desire to migrate away from larger cities and into more rural areas.”
Emphasis on: Appreciation of capital
Ward suggests that you spend in ways that are still manageable – depending on your budget – and improve your economies. These regions are drawing the most inward investment and will see the greatest increase in house prices.
He states, “Destinations like Manchester and Liverpool are well-known investment hotspots, and there is still a good argument for investing there in 2020/2021.”
“But we also encourage clients to consider less apparent targets where job rates, populations and rental demand are all increasing, but where average prices are still well within reach. Bolton, Doncaster and Wolverhampton are three good examples, but there are many others that give variations on the same subject.
Of course, the outlook for house prices could have improved somewhat in the short term. The current crisis has contributed to lower transaction levels, making it impossible to forecast house price outcomes at present. However, as property investment appears to be a long-term activity, looking at the wider picture of patterns is still a successful strategy.
During the final financial period of last year, Seven Capital came up with a list of the top 10 investment locations. This was focused on expected rental revenue, capital growth, local demand and supply, and regeneration. The top of the list was Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester.
Focus on: monthly income for rentals
This is the most important thing for many investors to look at. Places with high rental demand and good returns will guarantee the best continuous returns for the purchaser, regardless of the volatility in house prices.
There are many ways to find out where the ‘right’ rental income is. This may be based on a town or city as a whole, or in a particular area. Totally Capital, for example, published a yearly report on rental income with the best postcodes in the UK.
Liverpool has dominated the top 10 in Totally Money’s roundup for the last few years. L1 in the centre has the highest yield in the UK, reaching an average of 10% last year. To put it in perspective, the worst region for yields was AL5 in St Albans, where average yields are just 1.95 per cent.
Liverpool has become a very popular place for investment in properties. There’s a lot of regeneration going on, a rising work market and a big demand for rental properties.
Apart from Liverpool, Leeds is also in the top list for Totally Capital – LS2 is in ninth place with 7.92 percent returns. Sheffield’s S1 postcode follows with an average yield of 7.83 per cent.
To look at another tracker, Sourced Capital published a rental income table earlier this year. It was found that the north-eastern area had the highest rental income of 4.9%. This was then followed by Yorkshire and the Humber with 4.5 per cent and the Northwest with 4.4 per cent.
Speaking again regarding rental income opportunities in secondary and tertiary towns and cities, Ward says: “There are ingredients for some very good yields and, at the same time, thriving local economies are making long-term capital appreciation a very credible prospect.”
Is It Worth Being A Landlord In The UK In 2020?
Becoming a landlord is no get rich quick route
Investing in industrial or residential property for rental purposes is not a way to get rich quickly. Investing in Buy to Let is a safer investment than leaving money in your bank account or any other investment options, but it is not a path to fast wealth. With rental income and value appreciation, both of them together are certainly an enticing choice if you consider the Buy to Let market.
It’s important to buy a property at a reasonable price. Buying to let property is not for your personal use, but you can have a broader area to get the property below market value. Ideally, you want to buy something close to where you live, because it’s easy to handle. Visit our Auction Property Guide page.
Some investors are drawn to high-yield properties in areas such as the Northeast and Northwest, Liverpool, Grimsby, etc.
While yields look good on paper, in practice some of these deprived areas appear to leave some landlords in the UK with high rates of voids, in some cases property damage and rent arrears. There is a lack of interest in the Buy to Let investors in these areas for a good reason.
Becoming A Landlord Doesn’t Provide You With A Passive Income.
Generally, some people think becoming a landlord is like going for a walk in the park, buy a property and its plain sailing from there on out. This is not true for residential property, for commercial landlords, life seems to be much easier, particularly if the property is in a prime location.
Being a landlord takes commitment, which often creates stress due to issues such as rent arrears, property damage, or the process of eviction. Your investment at some point would include maintenance, refurbishment, and you will still have to handle the tenancy. The job required to maintain your assets will be continuous, which is time-consuming, and will not provide you with a passive income stream.
When You’re A Landlord – Time Is Money
A property owner with one or a thousand properties will have to invest more time and more money into managing their investment.
It’s time-efficient if your properties are near to where you live.
You need to decide whether you have the time to deal with all facets of the leasing business before you think of being a landlord. Using a letting agent reduces the time you need to handle the estate. However, eventually allowing decisions to rest with you, having a letting agent on board, does not guarantee that you will be free from all the associated letting nightmares.
Before You Become A Landlord – Do Your Research
Doing research on the tax consequences and how they could influence you could be extremely advantageous. It would be safer if you were to consider using a limited partnership as an investment vehicle as an alternative. Seek professional advice from your accountant on this matter.
The government has recently implemented tax reforms for landlords and a raft of new legislation that directly impacts landlords. Before you get into the Buy to Let market, you should consider all of them. Some of these developments are driving landlords away from the residential leasing market, and they believe it’s no longer worth being a landlord anymore.
Is It Possible To Charge Enough Rent So That You Can Break Even?
You have a few things to weigh up in order to make sure that all the numbers add up to your financial advantage. If you take out a mortgage, you may need to take into account non-payment times, rent arrears, and tax liability. It’s not worth considering being a landlord unless you have at least 30% of your operating expenses.
You’re going to have to set money aside for maintenance and refurbishment. Refurbishment could entail damage to your property in an unlikely event. In certain cases, the insurer will not pay, and you have to pay the bill.
Landlord Responsibility To Know The Law
Ignorance is not a defence; landlords must recognise their legal obligations.
Four of the key thing the landlords need to know about:
• A smoke alarm must be mounted on every floor of the building.
• Carbon monoxide alarms must be installed in rooms with a coal or wood-burning stove.
• A current EPC.
• A gas protection certificate for each gas appliance must be accessible inside the house.
• If you have taken a deposit, you must comply with the deposit regulations.
• In order to minimise the risk of fire, all furniture must comply with safety requirements and display acceptable labels.
• All electrical equipment must be fit for use, and we suggest an Installation Survey or Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) so that you can be sure that you are compliant.
• Right to rent
• The water system must function properly to protect the tenants from Legionella.
Must Allow Costing For Repairs And Refurbishment
We’ve already touched on this topic. Some landlords neglect to take into account the possible finances needed for maintenance, decoration, refurbishment and legal fees.
Refurbishment, replacement, decoration and, at some point, refurbishment are also required for residential properties. Most tenants would not look after the property like you would, as you do your own home, the wear and tear in rental properties is more frequent. In the case of HMO, wear and tear issues are much more frequent.
Landlords should aim to minimise the number of voids, strive to keep the rent at a fair amount and consider bringing in tenants that are likely to be long-term tenants in the property.
Empty properties are likely to mean; you are responsible for the property tax for the council for the time of vacancy.
Any time a tenant leaves, the property is likely to require some maintenance, even if it is a general cleaning, etc., and that means losing money and time.
Is it worth using a letting agent
Using a good letting agent will reduce tension and save you time. Particularly if the property isn’t close to where you live. When finding a rental agent, do your diligence, make sure they conduct a routine property inspection? Successful renting should mean:
1. Efficient collection of rents
2. Your legal requirements are being looked after
3. You will find the most appropriate tenants for your property
4. A professional inventory will be made
5. A routine inspection of the property will be carried out
6. The required repairs will be dealt with efficiently
7. Save time and stress of handling the let property
Booms And Busts
Is it worth being a landlord in these unpredictable times, where will our economy be by the end of 2020? Seasoned landlords see recessions as an opportunity to make money. Also, serious investors are scared and remain on the sidelines until the property market hits its bottom.
Boom and bust is a cycle, nothing new. The wise will make both boom and bust money. If you are considering buying a rental home, remember the economy and purchase it at the right time. World economies are in trouble as a result of COVID-19; however, the effect of COVID-19 will take time to flow through as unemployment increases, the effects of unemployment and, in turn, mortgage defaults, etc.
It could be worth waiting for at least four months before you consider buying a home.
Should You Invest In Residential Or Commercial Property?
This question was a simple and straight-forward answer 15 years ago. Easier than the COVID-19 period. Commercial properties usually offer more financial incentives than residential properties for your money. There is no question that commercial property owners have less stress in handling commercial property.
The benefits of commercial property are that maintenance responsibilities can lie with the occupant. You may not have the legal duty of homeowners under the law on housing.
Commercial assets have usually been a better choice than investing in residential properties.
Residential property has been less desirable in recent years, particularly as a result of recent legislation that has had more effect on residential property than on commercial property.
Coronavirus has changed the world; even some commercial landlords are in trouble because their tenants are financially struggling. Many tenants, including major high street names, are asking landlords to write off their rent for a period of between 3 and 6 months.
Even before Coronavirus, our high streets had a growing abundance of empty units. Some landlords with commercial properties in a good location struggle to let them, and when they get a tenant on the hook, the tenants also ask for a rent-free duration.
Empty industrial properties attract full business rates. Not only does the landlord have no rent coming in, but the landlord is often hit with full business rates.
Things are evolving rapidly at the moment; many fear the risk of a second wave of Coronavirus infection. We may be headed for a deep depression like that of 1929/1932 before the dust settles and Coronavirus is bought under control; it’s hard to tell what sector is a safer investment.
Is It Worth Being A Landlord?
To address the question directly; no, not at this time. We’re at the mercy of Coronavirus. Wait a few months to try to find the bottom once the market begins to fall. The wait may be as long as a year.
We hope this post was useful, especially in the current Covid circumstances, it’s really difficult to know what to do. If there’s a question that we haven’t answered in this post then do let us know, we’ll be happy to answer it for you. Simply post it, along with your opinions in the comments section below or head over to our blog page for more interesting property articles.