Has normal service resumed?
Matthew Cumber is MD of Countrywide Surveying Services
We’re now closing in on three months since we restarted physical valuations in earnest, which leads to the question – has normal service resumed?
To be honest, I’m not sure what the word normal even means any more, but let’s take a look at market conditions in the midst of this period to offer some indication.
From a surveying perspective, the volume of instructions is currently at a level that I for one can’t remember seeing for many years, if ever.
We’ve all had years where August seemed like a month-long holiday for many people in and around the mortgage market but – as we all know – 2020 is certainly no ordinary year.
Focusing on August activity, according to the latest RICS UK Residential Survey, housing market activity strengthened further in August, with enquiries, sales and new instructions all continuing to rise.
Breaking these down, 63% of respondents reported an increase in buyer interest over the month, however the longer-term view remains more cautious. As buyer enquiries continued to rise, new instructions also saw a jump, with a headline net balance of +46% of survey participants noting an increase in vendors listing property to sell.
Consequently, strong growth in agreed sales was cited for a third successive month, with 61% of contributors noting a pick-up.
Looking ahead, near term sales expectations remain modestly positive, but twelve-month sales projections are still in negative territory. Anecdotal evidence suggests concerns over the broader economic climate continue to drive this subdued assessment.
Turning to house prices, feedback from the August survey points to a sharp acceleration in house price inflation. At a national level, a net balance of +44% of respondents reported an increase in prices, the strongest reading since 2016.
This is up from a net balance of +13% in July and marks a dramatic turnaround compared to the reading of -33% registered back in May. What’s more, virtually all parts of the UK are now seeing prices increase. The only exception being London, where prices are cited to have remained more or less flat over the past two months.
So, what does this mean for the intermediary market and Countrywide Surveying Services as a business?
In a word, busy.
I recently saw a tweet from Andrew Montlake at Coreco which said: ‘Could easily work 24 hours a day every day and still have more to do!’. This pretty much sums up the current workload on everyone’s plate across the industry and that’s certainly the case when it comes to surveyors across the UK.
A large number of challenges remain for surveyors. We have to navigate even more robust health and safety measures, deal with cancellations/not being allowed into certain properties and supplying our people with the right tools/PPE to do their job in a safe, effective and efficient manner.
For companies like Countrywide with 400+ surveyors back in the field this is no easy task but these are challenges we all have to overcome to keep the housing market moving.
In order for us all to get through this workload I’d like to highlight three words that can really help.
Awareness – let’s be aware of the challenges facing other cogs in the mortgage journey and how we can work together to overcome them in a timely and effective manner.
Communication – the basics of better awareness come with better communication. We have all the tools at our disposal to communicate better and working remotely should no longer be considered as an excuse for any lack of productivity.
Patience – Don’t misunderstand patience for complacency or inefficiency but a little patience in the right circumstances can go a long way when we are all under pressure.
And it certainly wouldn’t hurt to also implement these words into our personal lives to help support our mental health during these challenging times.