Caveat Venditor

Phillip Bishop from Perry Bishop and Chambers looks at the impact national and global events might have on a resurgent UK property market towards the end of the year.

We hear about caveat emptor – let the buyer beware – but what about caveat venditor – let the seller beware? In the property market there is a great deal for sellers to be happy about at the moment. But how long this will last is anyone’s guess. Sellers should beware.

The relaxation of the Covid lockdown rules has taken the property industry by surprise – albeit a pleasant surprise. There is an exodus from urban areas to rural locations. More buyers want open space and extra room at home than they did before the lockdown. Larger houses have suddenly become more popular as buyers look for extra working space – not just for one person but also for two or more people. Multi-generational homes are also receiving more attention.

Properties that are two, three or even four hours’ travelling time from major cities such as London and Birmingham are increasingly in vogue. Buyers are swapping property in the commuter belts for more expansive homes farther out, now that working from home is more prevalent. Why live in East Acton when you can live in East Anglia and why live in South Croydon when you can live in the South Downs or even South Devon?

How long this unexpected result of Covid 19 will last is impossible to predict. But the bandwagon is rolling and seems to have reversed years of rural flight to urban environments.

But sellers should beware of several points. First, urban living has wonderful advantages and this outward movement may not last. Second, we don’t yet know the full impact of increased unemployment: it could well affect buyer numbers later in the year. The third point, and the elephant in the room, is once again Brexit. When Covid 19 has ceded its front-page status in the news, the Brexit negotiations will surely fill the vacuum. At the same time, the US general election will be hotting up to be perhaps the most divisive and globally important in modern history. There may be an autumn lull in the market while all these issues are resolved.

So, caveat venditor. Let the seller beware. What does this mean in practice? It means make hay while the sun shines. Through a flexible approach, help a deal to go through sooner rather than later. Right now just might turn out to be a better time in the property market than later in the year.

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