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Interview: What Homebuyers Need to Consider over the Next Six Months

As restrictions are officially being lifted and we try to ‘learn to live with Covid-19’ and the Stamp Duty holiday draws to a final close, we asked Andrea Fawell, sales and marketing director at Kebbell, tabout what will be influencing home-purchases going forwards in the next six months as we enter another phase of this extraordinary and tumultuous period in history.

So officially Covid restrictions are stopping, how will the property market adjust?

I think a large number of people will still want social distancing and for wearing masks to continue, despite being officially told it is now our choice as to whether we do so, because the pandemic is far from being over.  On a human level everyone has a story behind the scenes about how they have been affected and some for example may still be protecting vulnerable family members.  The property industry wants to make our prospective purchasers comfortable and feel secure because if there is one thing we have learnt, after so many twists and turns, is that change can happen quickly. In the immediate future I think that means still playing safe but checking with customers every so often to see if they are comfortable in the buying environment.

Will viewings still be by appointment?

Viewings will be by appointment still, at our Kebbell developments anyway, because we can give them a much better one to one service, giving them our undivided attention and commitment.  People appreciate that. We have invested so much in online information so potential purchasers have a really good idea of what is on offer before they come and that has meant more serious, meaningful buyers come to visit and we can give them a lot more of our time.  Again, it is something developers will review as we go along.

What will happen to house prices after the stamp duty holiday completely comes to a close?

The Stamp Duty holiday is now tapered from 1st July until 30th September when it comes to close.  Getting to 30th June was a huge and completely unique mountain climb for everyone in the residential property industry. It after all enables considerable savings and a made huge difference to many people.   We have never experienced a time when purchasers have put so much pressure on us to meet such an important deadline.  Houses that could be, had to be ready in time for 30th June. Now there will be a small lull in activity whilst we catch our breath and buyers who just missed the boat put what could have been behind them, but the demand is still very much there.

“Ultimately there is still a shortage of good homes in most parts of the country and so we have a lot of forward sales as people still want to move, more so than ever because of the changes we faced in lockdown and our new desires for lifestyle living.  I expect prices will maintain their current levels or may well continue to rise but people are now factoring back in the stamp duty obligation.

When do you think the current buying backlog will be relieved?

I hope the majority of the backlog has been relieved or will be in the next few weeks. Behind the scenes the entire residential sector was pulling out all the stops to enable buyers to benefit from the Stamp Duty Holiday from surveyors and solicitors to developers, contactors and the local authorities. So many people were involved in this.  We had a horse box turn up full of furniture because our buyers couldn’t get hold of a van to hire. Florists couldn’t keep up with providing fresh flowers as welcome gifts, landscapers worked tirelessly. Carpet fitters and cleaners worked through the night and solicitors worked 18-20 hour days.  Everyone pulled out every stop possible. It just shows how many different stages there are to finishing a house.  Honestly the whole industry should congratulate themselves on how much has been achieved.  We made it happen and it was a remarkable period.

Are developers happy about the new mortgage guarantee legislation?

The legislation is good from a developer’s point of view because we do not want people to run into problems meeting their mortgage obligations. The legislation offers either first time buyers or current homeowners the opportunity to secure a mortgage with a 5 per cent deposit against a purchase price of up to £600,000. It is the responsible thing for the government to do.

What will be the effect of the new Help to Buy scheme?  Will it make as big a difference as the previous version?

The New Help to Buy scheme won’t have the take up of its predecessor because fewer people are eligible, but we are seeing first time buyers using it, so it is doing what it was designed to do which is to get first timers on the ladder.  Perhaps some purchasers are buying a less expensive property than they might have opted for in the last couple of years but it’s still some help to those who are still eligible.

What do you think is going to happen to the London residential market with the current race to space outside of London?

The housing market is clearly robust, and many leading experts believe this is set to continue as we hope we are coming to the end of the pandemic.  We will watch with interest because there has been a bit of an exodus out of London as people are choosing access to open space over access to the underground and as many will continue to work from home.  In time there may be a mass return to office blocks for workers, but if not, there will be a large amount of empty office space and many are forecasting that there is little else that can be done but turn that into much needed residential developments.  There is always demand for rental properties in London and so maybe this will take the heat out of the rental market, but I truly hope future London developments consider adding outside space as much as possible.

Why is the demand for new homes at a record high?

New homes can give purchasers what they want.  When you are choosing to move home there is practically always a compromise that has to be made, but the compromises you have to make with a new home are fewer.  Good developers will have listened carefully to what individual buyers really need so when they move inthey feel ‘This is exactly what I wanted’. New homeowners love the idea of moving into a fresh home that no one else has ever lived in where everything is new and sparkling clean and the carpets are freshly laid. All the new buyers have to do is unpack and then sit back and relax. They don’t have to wait to afford a new kitchen or spend next three months decorating.  The homes are luxurious, and owners are given the luxury of time where everything has been done for them so they can just enjoy it.  People want less stress and more time with their families and friends.”

It is said that customer experience has never been more important so what are customers expecting now?

Home buyers are expecting more one on one time, knowledge and attention from developers and estate agents. Perhaps they want you to go more out of your way than before because buyers want to know all the details and expect us to know the answers there and then. Now that they may have to wait a few days for an appointment rather than just walking on to site, they want a Rolls Royce service and sometimes two to three hours with a knowledgeable sales-person.