Lynne Dyer, founder of the Guildford & Godalming Estate Agency that bears her name, reviews the last three months of the local property market
I’m sure I’m not the first to say that the speed with which properties are selling is truly unprecedented. In my 25 plus years in the property market, there have been other buoyant times but the current level of demand is exceptional. This is especially true given how Covid has challenged so many aspects of our lives; although at the same time, the pandemic has made many people take stock of their lifestyles and – unlike most New Year resolutions – they are taking real action and making changes.
Apartments and houses are selling ‘off market’ and are being snapped up immediately by willing buyers prepared to pay over the asking price to reduce the chances of being gazumped by someone else. When properties are marketed openly – especially around the £500,000 to £1m mark – buyers are finding themselves in a bidding war and many homes are going to sealed bids/best and final offers.
Many of the buyers I meet now are living in rented properties while they search for a new home. They have sold up in London and without the obligation of a daily commute anymore – even when Covid restrictions lift, they will work at least a couple of days a week from home – they are looking for a better quality of life for their family. The calibre of our schools, coupled with our fabulous countryside, have always been a big draw but now more so than ever. By selling up, they’re putting themselves in a more advantageous position for when they finally find the home they’re looking for. But as so many are finding, it’s not an easy task.
While there is no doubt it is a seller’s market at the moment, it’s not just about Londoners escaping the city looking for their dream home. Many people have experienced career upheavals during Covid and even among those who still have jobs, many have income uncertainties or are simply using the experience of the pandemic to make lifestyle changes. For instance, I have one client who is selling her home in Guildford and heading for the Derbyshire Dales in search of even greater open spaces; her work, now full time from home, means she is no longer restricted by any commute and by her standards, even this part of West Surrey is not rural enough.
I’m also seeing more people offloading apartments – whether buy-to-lets or simply second homes used by their children. Many owners are finding that the rewards no longer justify the stress, or the expense, of being a landlord and with the current demand for property, this is the time to sell especially if the children have finished university.
Interestingly, I’ve also seen more people turn to property as a career choice – those who have had time on their hands over the past year and who have noticed how quickly prices are increasing – are trying their hand at flipping investment properties. Of course this is the exception and being honest, if it was that easy, more people would be doing it!
While it is likely that things will quieten down as the stamp duty holiday draws to a close and the furlough scheme ends permanently, ultimately people always need to move home. Whatever the economy is doing, the reasons people move continue; whether it’s the three main drivers – marriage and starting a family, divorce or death – or other variables that come into play such as job relocations and general upsizing or downsizing as families grow or decrease.
I expect to see a small lull in the market come autumn and as Christmas approaches. However, in the long-term, the pandemic has caused many people to review their housing and lifestyle choices; I think the exit from London will continue for some time and current residents of the area will continue to seek to improve the way they have been living – whether that is upsizing or downsizing and/or moving further into the countryside.
As a boutique agency, I’m able to offer a very hands-on approach. With more than 25 years’ experience of selling homes, I’m well positioned to help and advise people – and I’ve first-hand experience of bringing up a family and all the different stages of life! My hands-on approach means I’m able to be more flexible too; recently for instance I was able to organise a viewing on a Sunday evening for a buyer that simply didn’t have any other time available – he liked what he saw and we were able to conclude a sale there and then. People say they offer a personal service; I know I do.
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