New Homes

Best advice in an uncertain housing market

published by

Fran Puddefoot

Our agents from Cornwall to the Scottish Highlands have access to Savills market-leading research team who have been keeping us all abreast of the impact of the coronavirus on the housing market. We are in touch with each other, our buyers, sellers and lawyers every day, supported by excellent IT systems to allow agents to work remotely and provide sound advice.

We consider every buyer’s needs and situation on a case-by-case basis, thinking outside the box to deliver a proactive service in the current environment. Here are some of the most common queries we are currently receiving from clients:

What sort of market are we currently seeing across the UK?

It’s no surprise that we are seeing very low levels of transactions up and down the country in what would traditionally be a busy period for the housing market. There has been a drop in consumer confidence while social distancing and self-isolation rules have inhibited the practicalities of buying and selling. However evidence, both from our agents operating across the UK and the hits on our online property listings, suggests that many people may simply be delaying plans to move, rather than cancelling them.

What general advice can you give buyers and sellers?

Moving house is one of the most stressful things most of us do in life, never mind having to do it in the middle of a pandemic as the people we are working with at the moment are doing. Keeping ourselves, our families and our communities safe must be the number one priority. So anything that involves flouting social distancing guidance is out of the question, for example valuers, photographers and viewers are not able to enter your home.


Our clients fall into two categories. Discretionary movers – those who want to move when the time and circumstances are right; and critical movers – those who are being pushed through life circumstance such as downsizing following death or divorce, a growing family or a pressing need to be near work or relatives. If your home is not yet on the market, current best advice for the majority of discretionary movers will be to press pause and take time to make plans in the background.

If I do have a pressing need to move, what should I do?

For the second category, the critical mover, all is not lost. The Government is supportive of the industry, recognising its part in sustaining the economy and driving the production and delivery of other goods and services, and that a suitable home to live in is an essential requirement. Solicitors and agents have been creative in coming up with some effective solutions to allow more critical moves to happen, while bearing in mind all Government guidance.


The key to all of this is tolerance, flexibility and good communication with solicitors, mortgage brokers and your estate agent. It is more vital than ever before to keep up with legislation and guidance and your advisers will be working from home and ready to help.

As a buyer seeking a new home, what do I do now?

Our website shows an array of properties with images and often videos too, sometimes with drone photography for larger properties, and buyers can phone or book a virtual appointment to ask us questions from the comfort of their own sitting rooms. Some agents are holding back stock for when lockdown restrictions are lifted, and as a potential buyer it is certainly worth phoning local agents to find out what they have on their books and to be amongst the first to see new properties when sanctions allow. Also, do ask if there’s a virtual tour available.

How do we decide on a moving date if we don’t know when freedom of movement will resume?

You should not feel concerned about progressing to exchange with a long completion date that could then be brought forward by mutual consent. While there has been a temporary pause to registering transactions in Scotland, new legislation will allow this to be done electronically and sales to progress.


However, even if you set a date to move, it is unlikely that removal companies will be able to help, so you may need to agree an extension. In other cases we have seen properties complete where the outgoing occupant is allowed to remain in situ under licence until the situation becomes clearer, but only where there is a proper legal agreement in place. It is vital that you speak to your agent and your solicitor to understand what potential issues there may be in your particular case.

I don’t have a pressing need to sell but would like to test the market.  Is there any harm in doing so?

You may have concerns about whether or not to launch your house on the market and we are taking every enquiry like this on a case-by-case basis. While some sellers will wish to proceed to launch now, and we will do all we can to help, our best advice is likely to be to sit tight until stay-at-home restrictions are lifted. Apart from anything else, getting surveys carried out will cause challenges so please do check with your agents or solicitor so as not to fall foul of legislation. There is plenty you can do meantime, from digging out all paperwork and consents to tidying up the garden, decorating, and making those little repairs around your home to give it the best opportunity to shine on the market when the time is right.

My property is already listed – should I take it off the market?

Our advice is to keep your property on the market. At this stage it is about building up a pipeline of potential buyers and we are still receiving offers, although the legal process may be a little more drawn out.

We have agreed a surprisingly high number of sales off the back of virtual viewings where there is already professional video available, or where vendors have recorded their own footage using their mobile phones. We have also organised live video streaming for our clients, involving buyer, seller and agent so that we can talk the potential purchaser through a tour of the property, answering questions along the way.

The situation remains fast paced and ever changing. Communication and flexibility, particularly around completion dates, is absolutely key. Keep in regular contact with your agents and solicitors who have a vital role in oiling the chain of buyers and sellers. In our experience a continuous dialogue between all parties is almost always leading to an agreed strategy for moving matters forward.

A lot of good old-fashioned estate agency is being done, with agents matching buyers with properties on the market. Potential buyers also have more time for trawling websites and to spend time with families, discussing and perhaps reassessing their accommodation needs. We won’t be in lockdown forever and there are plenty of opportunities for eyes on your property as the nation stays home.


Author:  Andrew Perratt, Head of Country Residential, National Residential Division Management           7th April 2020



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