MT Finance: March and April house price figures will be plagued by lack of volume

Jessica Bird

April 22, 2020

Gareth Lewis MT Finance

Where February’s figures may have been able to illustrate the start of coronavirus’ impact, it may be hard to track real changes to house prices in the coming months, according to Gareth Lewis (pictured), commercial director of property lender MT Finance.

In response to the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) house price figures for February 2020, Lewis said: “February’s figures show the start of the impact of COVID-19 on the market, with values decreasing after what was a buoyant January on the back of the Boris Bounce.

“By February, people were starting to look at the wider landscape and worry about what was coming out of China.

“The March and April figures are likely to show a distinct change as the volume of purchases dries up.

“If there is no data in terms of volume, any significant changes in value won’t be easily seen.”

Jeremy Leaf, North London estate agent and former residential chairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), added that the February statistics might well be discounted altogether, due to the sharp change in circumstances that ensued in the following months.

He said: “Although this is the most comprehensive assessment snapshot of UK property prices, the period covered renders it almost irrelevant in view of the market turmoil since.”

However, at the very least, the ONS figures for February suggested the potential for a return to positive market performance once the lockdown is lifted.

Leaf said: “[The] results do confirm post-Brexit activity, particularly in London, giving hope that activity will continue where it left off if lockdown restrictions can be eased relatively soon.”

Lewis said: “From the lenders’ perspective, activity has not fallen off a cliff. Lenders are still busy and there are transactions still being done.

“Property investors are far more bullish because they take calculated risks better and have a portfolio of property so look at the speculative side of things – once the world goes back to normality and the government props up the economy, hopefully there will be a reasonable bounce back.

“Homeowners represent a more nervous side of the market – if lockdown goes on for longer, can people maintain their jobs?”

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