In the first week of the COVID-19 lockdown, new prospective tenants registering in London and the Home Counties fell by 59% compared to the five-year average, and in the week ending 18 April this number declined a further 28%; however, the number of web views for rental properties has increased, according to estate agents Knight Frank.
By the week ending 4 April, the figure was 1% higher than the five-year average, and this increased to 10% by the week ending 18 April.
Jon Reynolds, head of lettings for the City and East region of London at Knight Frank, said: “In the early stages of the lockdown people froze.
“That has changed as time has gone on. People now know whether they’ve been furloughed or not and some are starting to plan for life after the lockdown.”
As lettings transactions move quicker, involve smaller financial commitments and are established for fixed periods of time, demand in this area tends to respond more swiftly to change than in the sales market.
However, the number of tenants renewing lettings contracts is also rising, as people opt to stay put given the global uncertainty.
The number of tenancy renewals agreed since lockdown measures were introduced is 15% higher than the equivalent period last year, and is at its highest in 10 years.
David Mumby, head of central London lettings at Knight Frank, said: “The lettings market can turn on a sixpence.
“It is the most nimble area of the UK housing market and we trade by the day with a product that can come on or off the market.
“Small variations in currency or tax policy can produce sudden changes in demand and the infrastructure is now in place that means we can move people quickly.”
Despite being slower to react, the sales market has also seen a less marked fall in demand as the lockdown has gone on.
In the first week, the number of prospective buyers was 75% below the five-year average, by 18 April this decline was 57%.
Gary Hall, head of lettings at Knight Frank, said: “While demand is rekindling, more people are also opting to go with the status quo, particularly if there is no pressing need to move.”