Property market steadies as lockdown bites, SDLT deadline looms

With coronavirus deaths and hospital admissions surging to record highs, the UK property market slowed as despite progress with the vaccination programme people once again adapted to the grim situation and acclimatised to life under a new strict lockdown that could last months, the latest data from the Yomdel Property Sentiment Tracker (YPST) showed.

Estate agents and other home moving services have been able to remain operational during lockdown, but the looming stamp duty holiday deadline of 31 March may be making vendors less optimistic they will find buyers willing to meet their price aspirations in the time remaining, leading to an emerging imbalance in between vendors and buyers.

Sales progression log jams are also acting as a brake, with delays adding further uncertainy. Vendors were flat in the week, buyers rose 3%, landlords dipped 1% and tenants slid 7% over the previous week, YPST data for the week ending midnight 17 January showed.

As with last year, the latest lockdown has once again spurred people to connect with estate agents via digital channels. Traffic to own-branded estate agent websites was 22% higher than the same week 2020, while the number of people engaging in real-time live chat online was 21% higher, and the number of leads being generated some 23% higher.

Yomdel provides 24/7 managed live chat services to 3,800 estate agent offices in the UK, handling more than a 1.5m chats per year. It has analysed the data and leads captured in live chat going back to January 2019, up until week ending 17 January 2021. The website visitor data is a sample across major estate agency groups in the UK and covers in excess of 47 million unique website visits back to January 2019.

“Seeing the vaccination programme gather speed is incredibly reassuring but we’re still in this for the long haul. People clearly still need to move but as the stamp duty deadline looms and economy continues to contract agents say more and more people are opting to play a bit of a waiting game. People are definitely in the market but they need more encouragement,” said Yomdel Founder & CEO Andy Soloman.

“Getting a vaccination may be the most eagerly anticipated thing for most people, but the best shot in the arm for the property market right now would be for the government to agree to extend the stamp duty holiday to enable pipelines to work their way through without artificial deadlines causing deals to collapse and yet piling more misery on some families,” he added.

The YPST methodology establishes a base line average shown as 100% or 100, calculated according to average engagement values over the 62 weeks prior to the first national lockdown on 23 March 2020, and plots movements from there according to the volumes of people engaging in live chat, their stated needs, questions asked, and new business leads generated. Data is measured over full 24-hour periods.

New vendors were up 0.20%, or 0.25 points, to end the week on 120.91, some 21% above the average but 8% below the same week last year.

Buyers rose 2.95%, or 10.67 points, to close at 126.95,  27% above the pre-covid-19 average and on a par with the same week 2020.

Landlords fell 0.95% or 0.94 points, to finish at 112.62, 12% above the average and 1% lower than the same week last year.

Tenants fell 7.35%, or 9.93 points, to close at 125.25, around 25% above the pre-covid-19 average and 7% down on the same week last year.

The following graph looks at the relationship between website visitor volumes, live chat volumes and the volume of leads generated. The data samples more than 45 million visitors to estate agent websites from Jan 2019 – 17 January 2021 and shows how web traffic (blue line) is 22% higher than the same week last year. The volume of people using live chat (red line) and the numbers of new business leads captured (purple line) are 21% and 23%, respectively, above the same week 2020.

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