“It’s not dead, it’s merely restin’…”


The Riddle of the Resting Parrot.

As we head gingerly towards the (dare I say it?)  end of lockdown as we currently know it, we feel it appropriate to share our recent findings on Agency in the Time of Covid.

Is our Norwegian Blue (the excellent London Property Market pre-covid), “pinin’ for the fjords and merely restin’” or is it indeed “deceased”? Is it “an ex-parrot”?

Let’s look at the facts – and I feel obliged to stress at this point, that this is not a facile attempt from an interested party to talk up the market. Rather, it is an honest appraisal of the facts as we have observed them over the last 6 or 7 weeks.

And these facts reveal both good news and bad.

So, let’s start with the good news, and some stats.

According to a nationwide survey of 70 estate agencies last week, only 1.4% of deals have fallen through due to the buyers withdrawing.

Ah well, you say, “they probably massively price-chipped them to keep them alive.”

Au contraire, Blackadder…

We have seen far less price re-negotiation than after the Brexit referendum, both in numbers of deals re-negotiated and the actual amounts re-negotiated; Brexit, 26% of deals renegotiated at an average of 6.5%, Covid, 14% of deals renegotiated at an average of 2.5%.

This would seem to suggest that fewer people think that this will adversely affect the market than did Brexit and those that do believe it will affect the market, think it will be less damaging than Brexit (and some of that lot might just be trying it on..)

It would therefore seem to suggest that the buying population don’t think that the past seven weeks or so have materially affected the value of what they are buying.

Interestingly, a survey of all 77 of our current vendors revealed that 100% want to carry on and try and sell.

A survey of our “hot” buyers revealed that 78% were still wanting to buy.

According to Rightmove, their web-traffic rose by 20% last week – we can confirm the same stat on our website (however, part of this is no doubt what we call The Boxing Day Syndrome; protracted familial confinement leads to; A. God, I’m bored, think I’ll look at some property porn. B. We gonna need a bigger boat! sorry, house. C. Jesus, I was right, I’ve got to divorce him!)

That all seems very positive from both sides of the transactional fence.

It seems to me that the fundamental sentiment within the market hasn’t changed; the pent-up demand accrued over four years of Brexit-boll#cks, that was released after the Conservative’s election win and was re-pent-up by Covid, is still there, alive and kicking.  Waiting to be re-released.

What the four years of Brexit-boll#cks (and stamp duty changes before that) did, was to rationalise the market. It became so expensive and spooky to move, that the tyre-kickers were cleaned out and the rest of the less committed buyers decided to make do or mend;  ie they stayed put and put up with it, or they extended their homes.

That left in the market those with real reasons to move – the usual suspects; marriage, birth, schooling, death, downsizing and divorce.

As I have repeated, ad nauseam some might say, in this column, the good people of Wandsworth just want to get on with their lives and move home, and over the past five years or so, Life has perpetually thwarted them.

I think it important to add here that unlike the last seismic global event to affect the market, the 08/09 financial crash, the world’s economic system is not fundamentally screwed. The banking system is not broken, there is not “no money” out there, with no one willing to lend to no one else.

In fact, quite the opposite is true; there has never before been more money pumped into the economy (this time they’re bailing-out you and me, not just the bankers). And money has, quite literally, never been cheaper. Also, as far as I understand, the banking system is not totally busted like 08/09, it is just suspended.

And now the bad news; there is very little new action out there (obvs); viewing numbers are down 96% (even if we include our new virtual viewings), applicant registrations are down 75%, and new sales agreed are down 91%.

And although we are offering virtual viewings (which in some cases are resulting in offers, and even one gazumping!), people will not spend £1.5m (our average sale price) on a house, unless they can actually physically visit it.

So, and in conclusion, the will to do the deal is there, the finance and the system are still in place. The Norwegian Blue is very much still alive. Michael Palin was correct; he is indeed merely resting because he’s been knocked out by Lockdown.

What is missing, what will awaken our beloved Norwegian Blue, is the end (or moderation) of lockdown; the ability for people to physically visit the properties that they want to buy. The antidote to the anaesthetic is viewings, the answer to The Resting Parrot Riddle is viewings.

Over to you Boris.