Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, the priorities for UK home buyers and what they are looking for in a new home – particularly in relation to location and specific property characteristics – has changed rapidly.
Estate agents have reported record interest from potential new buyers as a result of the temporary stamp duty break announced in July 2020, with the highest number of mortgage approvals since 2007 in August. However, having spent the initial lockdown period in homes that no longer fit the bill, feedback from many recent buyers shows they have specific requirements for their new homes, as evidenced by numerous surveys from industry insiders such as Rightmove and Nationwide since the property market reopened in May 2020.
So, what are likely to be the most common priorities for buyers’ in 2021 and how can you market your property accordingly?
Top of the list of requirements for over two thirds of prospective buyers this year, and with no signs of abating in 2021, is a bigger garden. Following hot on the heels of garden envy was the desire for a bigger home in general, with nearly 50% of buyers looking to upsize, particularly ‘second-steppers’ looking for more space for both family time and the ability to comfortably work from home. In fact, 36% per cent of buyers were on the move in search of better workspace in their home specifically. This interest in up-sizing has seen house prices for 3-4-bedroom properties and more expensive, detached mansion style properties rise significantly (55% and 104% respectively) in 2020 and continue to do so.
28% of UK wide buyers surveyed by Nationwide in September were in the process of moving or contemplating a move purely due to the pandemic. This was particularly evident in London and other cities. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, many buyers were seeking more outdoor space, with 31% wanting to live closer to parks and green spaces and 30% looking for a complete change of pace with a move to a rural area, particularly buyers in the older age groups. To have access to these new necessities within their budget, more buyers than ever before (35%) are happy to relocate to a completely different area.
However, it would be unfair to say that everyone is headed for the countryside. There are of course only a certain number of jobs where you can truly work from home, 5 days a week. For those that do need to commute to the office, there has been a rise in buyers seeking a shorter commute which allows for walking or cycling to work rather than cramming into packed public transport.
This is particularly the case in London, where many estate agents have seen three times the interest in central London properties since the start of the 2020 property boom compared to the same point in 2019. For first time buyers for whom a large, detached property will generally be out of reach regardless of location, avoiding a lengthy commute has become a popular option and location is king. First-time buyer sales in Zones 1-3 have risen from 28% to 35% from pre to post lockdown and fallen from 36% to 31% in Zones 4-6. So even the most bijou of city centre properties can still sell quickly when marketing is focused on the location. Highlighting proximity to big employers or local schools, colleges and universities can also be a big draw to potential buyers. Whilst sales may be less popular for properties with two bedrooms or fewer, the number of sales agreed for this sector has still grown by 36% since 2019.
So, in terms of marketing your property, it really pays to do your research and find out what buyers are looking for in your particular area and whether it is the features of the property itself or its location and proximity to work and local conveniences that are attracting buyers. Speak to local agents and find out the types of buyers who are most commonly purchasing properties like yours and tailor the property and advertisement accordingly. It is also helpful to find out what has put people off making offers to ensure the layout appeals to as many buyers as possible. Make sure you save or revisit the most attractive features of the house – such as a good-sized garden or separate office space – at the end of the viewing to keep these plus points at the forefront of the buyer’s mind. Make sure you asking price is also realistic. Whilst we may have seen a property price boom in 2020, buyers will be cautious of the potential of an economic recession in 2021 and won’t want to pay over the odds despite the competition in the current market.
Online and hybrid agents definitely offer vendors the advantage when it comes to buyers’ priorities, with specific online tools designed to offer direct access to buyer feedback, vendor and buyer communication and the ability to keep track of your property advert’s performance and quickly and easily adapt it where necessary to really appeal to buyers.