Portsmouth property market surges as people rush to sell up and find their dream homes post lockdown

ESTATE agents are reporting a boom in house sales, thanks to a relief on stamp duty and a desire from people to get moving now that coronavirus restrictions have been eased.
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And estate agents are also reporting that many sales are going to people moving out of London to Portsmouth to get better value for money and be near the sea.

Portsmouth-based independent estate agents Chinneck Shaw says business has been so good, that it has enjoyed its busiest month since 1883 when the firm was formed.

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The practice saw a sharp rise in interest in buying and selling as soon as the lockdown came to an end.

Estate agents have reported a boom in house buying and sellingEstate agents have reported a boom in house buying and selling
Estate agents have reported a boom in house buying and selling

Manager Lizzie Burt said: ‘There was a lot of pent-up interest following the lockdown. Many people were working from home and now they are looking for new homes with office space and more outdoor space too.

‘When the announcement was made about the stamp duty holiday, that was when we really saw a sharp rise in interest leading to the most sales ever being agreed in the history of our firm.’

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s temporary holiday on stamp duty on the first £500,000 of all property sales will be in place until March 2021 and it was designed to revive confidence in the post lockdown housing market.

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‘Anyone who was thinking they might move next year has brought their plans forward to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday,’ said Lizzie.

Chinneck Shaw in Milton Road, Portsmouth Chinneck Shaw in Milton Road, Portsmouth
Chinneck Shaw in Milton Road, Portsmouth

Research has shown that with the boom, house prices have continued to rise, with the latest index from Nationwide indicating an annual house price rise of 1.5 per cent in July.

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HMRC data also shows transactions leapt by 14.5 per cent between June and July this year.

Analysis by Rightmove found there were 66 per cent more active buyers this July than in July last year.

Lizzie Burt, from Chinneck Shaw Lizzie Burt, from Chinneck Shaw
Lizzie Burt, from Chinneck Shaw
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Estate agency Fox & Sons, which has offices in Southsea and North End, also said it has seen a surge in demand.

Stuart Mansell, area manager, said: ‘Business never stopped as we continued our services remotely during lockdown but, understandably, there was an element of ‘wait and see’ from customers during this challenging time. However, there is a lot of pent up demand with people registering to view properties and many looking to now get their house on the market.’

Independent sales and letting agent GD3 in Osborne Road, Southsea, has also reported a boom.

Jack Till, senior negotiator, said: ‘I have never been busier in the six years that I have worked here.’

Chris Bull from Lawson Rose in Southsea
Picture: Paul Jacobs (151694-7)Chris Bull from Lawson Rose in Southsea
Picture: Paul Jacobs (151694-7)
Chris Bull from Lawson Rose in Southsea Picture: Paul Jacobs (151694-7)
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He said that not only has the stamp duty relief enticed people to sell their houses, but the coronavirus lockdown has seen many people re-evaluating their lives, looking for nicer places to live boosted by an increased amount of home working.

‘The stamp duty relief has been a big helping hand but it is more to do with the fact that people don’t have to work in the city. They can live near the coast, and who wouldn’t want to live here?’, he said.

He said this has also seen a surge in demand for lettings, helped by tenant fees being banned last year.

‘It gives a greater freedom of movement,’ he said.

‘’If people don't like somewhere then after six months they can move on without paying huge fees.’

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Claire Ray, sales manager of Fine & Country in Drayton, said: ‘We’ve seen pockets of value sticking and some have flown out of the door – it’s been a mixed bag.

Neil and Helena Bedford - Owners of X-Press Legal Services HampshireNeil and Helena Bedford - Owners of X-Press Legal Services Hampshire
Neil and Helena Bedford - Owners of X-Press Legal Services Hampshire

‘We’re finding that solicitors and lenders are not up to speed in dealing with the bottleneck from lockdown.

‘It’s a great time to get going for new buyers and people who want to move with the stamp duty changes and a lot of people are taking advantage.

People have realised during lockdown they may need more space or want a garden.’

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Chris McKenzie, branch manager of Pearsons Estate Agents in Southsea agreed that lockdown had changed people’s outlooks. ‘Lots of people were cooped up during lockdown and realised they wanted more space or a garden especially during the hot weather,’ he said.

‘People are also not having to work in the office as much and do not have to commute as often – so why not buy twice the house for half the money on the coast? A quarter of mid to upper-range customers are people from London and the outskirts.

‘In June we saw record sales and then beat that in July by 20 per cent. We are very grateful for the positive impact on our industry.

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‘It is a lengthy process with selling houses with solicitors, lenders and surveyors dealing with the backlog but the front end of the market is moving very quickly. We are very busy – dealing with double the amount of business – but intend to make hay while the sun shines.’

Chris Bull, director of Lawson Rose Estate Agents in Southsea, said: ‘The market has been extremely busy since being allowed to return back to work on May 14 after lockdown.

‘The stamp announcement turned what was already a busy market into a frantic market with many house buyers looking to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday.

‘As we go into September I believe it could get even busier with further uplift over the next few months.

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‘With such a high level of transactions, the only concern we have along with the conveyancers is making sure any sales that are set up towards the end of this year or early next year, will go through by March 31.

‘Our advice would be if you are looking to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday is to look to sell sooner rather than later.’

Other parts of the market

Not only has the property boom brought business for estate agents, it has also had a knock-on effect for other businesses in the supply chain.

Housebuilder David Wilson has reported huge demand, and property search firm X-Press Legal Services has seen a sharp rise in the number of searches undertaken by conveyancing firms; up 46 per cent month on month.

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Neil Bedford, co-owner, said: ‘We have been very fortunate to be able to continue operating throughout these difficult times. The property market did stall but has bounced back with confidence. There is so much pent-up demand which we are now seeing coming through in our search orders. This is the sign that people aren’t just looking, they are buying.

‘We know from feedback from our conveyancing clients that there are also a high number of first-time buyers keen to fly the nest of mum and dad after lockdown. With more people now working from home, we are seeing an increase in re-mortgaging to enable them to fund an extension or work office. We are really pleased to see these trends across Hampshire and are looking forward to continuing to support a buoyant housing market.’

What’s changed?

Selling homes in a post-Covid world has changed considerably as a result of the pandemic but Lizzie Burt from Chinneck Shaw says buyers and sellers have adapted to the new normal.

‘When we were told on May 13 that we could go back to work, we suddenly had a lot to do to ensure we could operate safely.

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‘We held on to 98 per cent of our sales through lockdown and even took on properties using virtual valuations.

‘Video tours have revolutionised the way we can market properties and it means when people view a property they are more likely to put in a potential offer,’ she said.

No more than two people are allowed on a viewing, face masks must be worn and a health questionnaire needs completing.

Looking to the future, Lizzie says it is difficult to predict what lies ahead.

‘We are just trying to help as many people as possible to find their perfect new home,’ she added.