Buyer interest, fall-throughs and new listings all knocked as coronavirus crisis takes hold

Buyer interest was down 40% in the seven days to March 22, compared with the week before.

Fall-throughs were up by 60% in the same period measured week on week, and new listings down by 20% since the start of March.

The figures may all have deteriorated since Boris Johnson made his ‘stay at home’ speech on Monday evening.

Richard Donnell, research and insight director at Zoopla, has based the figures on traffic to Zoopla and leads to agents.

Donnell is predicting that transactions in the second quarter of this year will drop 60% compared with the same period last year, but that includes deals already agreed and which will proceed.

However, he also concedes that a “rapidly growing proportion of sales are starting to fall through”.

Last week, fall-throughs were 60% higher than in the previous week, although he says new sales agreed currently remain higher than fall-throughs by four to one.

He is forecasting that new sales agreed will drop some 80% in the next three months.

He is also forecasting that the fall in transactions will continue into the third quarter of this year.

While new listings are also down at Zoopla, agents’ overall listings per branch have remained fairly stable, with little withdrawal of properties already on the market.

Donnell believes that any coronavirus-related impact on house prices will be slow to feed through.

The effect of coronavirus has been all the more stark because the market had the strongest start for four years in January and February.

Zoopla’s monthly look at city house prices registered annual house price growth of 1.6% in February.

Donnell said: “Covid-19 presents a major new challenge, not just for the housing market but for the UK and global economies. Fifty years of history shows that external shocks have impacted the housing market to differing degrees, largely down to the scale of direct impact on the UK economy.

“The initial impact of external shocks is to reduce consumer confidence and put a brake on housing demand and the number of people moving home, which we can see in our latest figures.

“Levels of property transactions are typically more volatile than changes in house prices.

“We do not expect any immediate impact on prices.

“The timing of any rebound in housing market activity depends upon when new restrictions are lifted, and the extent to which households and businesses are able to return to a normal way of life.

“Browsing for homes online is set to continue and, while demand for property may rebound quickly, it will take several months for agents to rebuild new business pipelines.”

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