Undoubtedly, 2020 will live long in the memory of many UK estate agents as being “a game of two halves” to borrow a sporting metaphor. First, came a natural fear of the unknown in the shape of Lockdown One, followed almost directly by an explosion in demand for residential property moves right across the UK.
Whilst market commentators were quite rightly quick to point to the Chancellors stamp duty holiday as the catalyst for such an upsurge in market activity, few foresaw the mass migration that took place, as city dwellers sought lifestyle change as a direct response to the spread of Covid 19.
So would 2020 be considered as a good year financially for the UK residential property sector? Well, in terms of cash turnover and productivity I would venture to suggest that most architects, house builders, surveyors and estate agents would say yes – after a false start of course. However, if you were to ask them all if they wished for a repeat of the same frenzied rollercoaster ride experienced in 2020 this year? I wonder how many of them would hesitate and think carefully before responding.
So what should we all expect of 2021? Well the fact that the New Year has started with another lockdown I suspect is an ominous start for the residential property market, particularly as Lockdown Three is likely to extend well into the Spring. Also, with the route back to normality clearly resting on the speed of the vaccine roll out, it is hard to see market momentum returning with a vengence much before the summer – at best.
However, it is the Chancellor of the Exchequer who may well prove to have greatest influence over the public’s appetite for moving home this year, expressly through his policy and decision making. Firstly, Mr Sunak has to settle upon a final end date for furlough payments, the self employed grant,and the stamp duty holiday. Whilst secondly, needing to announce the intended timing of the inevitable tax rises required to start to repay the £400 billion borrowed by government to fund the cost of the pandemic thus far. No doubt Mr Sunak’s plans in this regard will all become clear in the next Budget on March 3rd, but surely this can only be the start of the route map back to normality.
Undoubtedly shaped by events, I have no doubt that a new version of “normal life” will start to emerge in the UK later this year, but will we (as a nation) all require a little “recovery time” before getting on with our lives in earnest? After all, it is easy to forget that for many people (young and old) Covid 19 has been life changing in terms of job losses, school closures, self isolation, and even bereavement. However, I also know that for some people the pandemic has been at best – an unwelcome interuption and at worst, a costly inconvenience. Whatever the perceived experience, I wonder whether the latter months of 2021 will prove to be more about short term expediency, rather than more lofty ambitions such as moving home.
If I am proved right in my thinking, this may come as very welcome news for our much beleaguered travel industry, and its collective struggle to get us all flying again – once of course air travel is allowed again and our skies reopened.
Speaking personally, a modest spell of guaranteed autumn sunshine, a swim in warm seas, and a plate of tapas will most definitely press my “reset button” – but will my view prove to be the exeption or the rule? Time will no doubt tell.
But whatever your standpoint, maybe the simple truth is that we should all just be grateful for the prospect of a return to simple life affirming pleasures , many of which we all rather shamelessly took for granted prior to the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Cheers!!
Peter Nicholls is the CEO of Ideology Consulting. For more information on Ideology Consulting, go to www.ideologyconsulting.co.uk