Back To Life


Back to life, back to reality, back to the here and now…so sang Caron Wheeler as Soul II Soul bounced across the UK airwaves in the Summer of ’89….and bounced, and bounced ad infinitum, indeed ad nauseam.

And what were Carol and Jazzie B on about?

No idea.

However, our here and our now, are respectively Wandsworth and September.

We’ll do Wandsworth in a bit, but first September, a time when the dog days of summer slowly slide away, and we slip slowly off into the grey, drear of early Autumn. A time to get back to life; back to school, back to work, and back to reality.

A time when traditionally the housing market shakes off its slough of Summer despond and awakens into autumnal action.  Because yes, that’s where we’re headed, straight through the equinox and into a new season of morning mists and mellow fruitfulness (normally combined with a strong uptick in market activity.

So as we creep up on the equinoctial hinge that is the 21st of September, we sense a time of change, a time when seasons, moods and markets pivot. For as I write this, we have only two weeks until the nights become longer than the days again!


Generally, the good burghers of Wandsworth spend the first two weeks or so of September sorting their kids out for school, getting their feet back under the desk, and generally reconnecting with reality (and life).

And then these good people get stuck into moving house.

For us, August is traditionally the quietest month of the year, even quieter than December. Usually, everyone decamps to Tuscany, Provence or Salcombe, that seaside suburb of Wandsworth. And if they’ve not decamped, they’ve still got the kids at home, or other things on their minds, so they’re not that interested in house hunting.

But crucially, like the Christmas break, the Summer hols allow people to spend time together, to talk, and make plans. And much as the recent lockdowns were larger siblings of the Boxing Day RightMove Effect (BD being RM’s busiest day, allegedly), so too the summer recess is a time for plans and property porn.

Normally, people plot, plan, and scheme from the sun-loungers of Chiantishire or the saloon bars of Salcombe, and then come charging back to Wandsworth in September with a desire to move home by the turn of the year – your standard property transaction taking about 3 months. (We’ll be in by Christmas…). And so, historically, September couldn’t be more different to August.

Have you noticed that the words (or their derivatives) normal, general, and traditional etc, have made a strong appearance in the lines above?

Well, they did, because that’s what, normally, generally, traditionally, usually happens.

Everyone buggers off from Wandsworth, the tumbleweed blows down Northcote road and we twiddle our thumbs or go down The Eagle, or twiddle thumbs in The Eagle..

But this year is anything but normal.

Take the tumbleweed strewn Northcote Road as an example, for it is indeed strewn with the stuff, you can barely move for tumbleweed, as I discovered when I returned from Tuscany the other day – you could park anywhere you fancied and walk into any eatery and just sit down and have lunch. And you could then drive from Northcote to the Wandsworth One Way (during “the school run”!) without stopping…

In property market terms, there seemed a similar story to be told – new buyer registrations down by 52%, new property instructions down by 67% and available stock running at about 30% of their normal levels. Yup, Summer in The City as per…

But hang on, what’s this?

Sales agreed at RB Northcote Road up 300% on a normal August!

The second-best month in 14 years of trading for deals done! And all this after having done a year’s worth of business in the first six months!

Shurley shome mishtake?

Well, no, actually not.

For yes there are, it would seem, very few people about – an awful lot of people were exhausted, fed-up, burnt-out/freaked-out after the year we’ve had and ran screaming from the city in July and headed for the hills (Tuscan, Devonian or otherwise).

And yes, the Property Cupboard is indeed bare, and Old Ma Hubbard has gone to Asda.

And that’s because those few, those crazy few, that have spent the summer here have been buying property hand over fist. The seemingly insatiable demand of the late Spring and early Summer has pushed right on through August.

And so, as we return our children back to school, and our feet beneath the desk, and our lives back to reality, we are surely set for an action-packed Autumn in the Wandsworth property market. If August, that traditional doldrum of the year when then market drifts listlessly across the sea of somnolence, can be our second ever most productive month, what can the Autumn bring?

Well, you know what, I just don’t know. Because although we began this with “back to life, back to reality”, we have to ask what is reality these days? What is the “life” to which we return?

To misquote Donal Rumsfeld (apparently the least pleasant man ever to prowl the corridors of the West Wing), there are many known unknowns that await us – many things that we know we don’t know – but then there are also many unknown unknowns – things that we don’t know that we don’t know…For Life in the Time of Covid seems to have stepped away from reality.

PS. For what it’s worth, and that’s probably not a lot, I think that it will be a very good Autumn – but I would say that wouldn’t I? Anyway, as ever, trust me, I’m an estate agent…