Oliver Lutner Shares His Views On The Post Covid-19 Housing Market

It is safe to say that 2020 has been a year like no other. Following the lockdown of the UK, the future of the economy was something that played on people’s minds as we would begin to embrace lockdown restrictions.

Naturally, for those in the conveyancing sector, the impact the coronavirus would have on the property market was a big concern.

Oliver Lutner, Associate and Head of New Build National Development Team, at Talbots Law took some time to speak to Sheryl Hodgson from Today’s Conveyancer, about his experiences over the past few months.

He said:

“In all honesty, I didn’t expect the property market to bounce back like it did. I don’t think I was alone in this thought. The fact that it returned to such high levels as quickly as it has done is indeed a good thing, but I just thought it would have taken a longer period to reach these levels.

“Naturally, like most conveyancing departments, when lockdown was announced, our pipelines abruptly came to a halt. This meant that we had to furlough staff. Here at Talbots, we furloughed staff on a rotational basis over three weeks which enabled them to keep in touch with their work. Fast forward two months, to the market re-opening in May and we brought back all the furloughed staff. We are now working back in our offices in our teams, whilst adhering to the social distancing and Covid secure measures.”

The coronavirus pandemic didn’t put the kibosh on everything. The new build market was seemingly extremely lucrative for Talbots Law. Although construction work couldn’t be undertaken, those homes that had been finished and were in the conveyancing pipeline could have been progressed.

Oliver explains:

“Although some of our pipelines decreased, the new build market was extremely busy for us during lockdown as exchanges still took place. Lockdown even saw some of clients completing on their new home. I think there was a level of understanding for clients as the pandemic hit every part of what we deemed ‘normal’ life.

“The ‘move in’ period looked slightly different, with homes undergoing a thorough deep clean prior to the new owners moving in, and social distancing measures implemented when new owners would pick up their keys.”

Since housebuilders have been able to commence construction again and the subsequent stamp duty land tax (SDLT) holiday announced by the Chancellor in July, the new build market has ‘spiralled’.

“Developers are able to give more incentives to buyers as they are no longer contributing towards payment of stamp duty, which we would usually see”

explains Oliver.

“They are contributing to the deposit which is a more appealing incentive to would be buyers.”

As part of the UK’s recovery from the pandemic, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised to ‘Build, Build, Build’. One area that this covers focuses on the amount of planning needed to secure plots to build new homes. Automatic planning permission is said to be granted for new build homes. Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government explained in the Sunday Telegraph that “permission in principle” would be given to builder for land that has been marked for ‘renewal’.

Mr Jenrick said:

“I am completely overhauling the system so we can build more good quality, attractive and affordable homes fast – and more young families can finally have the key to their own home.”

Oliver shares his thoughts on this new step forward from Mr Jenrick. He said:

“Developers still have their long standing reputations to think about, so it is unlikely they will simply pick up plots of land and start building. Infrastructure arrangements and community engagement need to still be considered, but these things naturally take time. Quality, must be at the forefront to guarantee long term sustainable homes for young families.

“Some larger developers, have their own internal excellence policies about the standards they have to keep. Most are five-star rated and based on customer satisfaction reports. It is in the developers’ best interest to ensure their corners aren’t cut, resulting in their end product being the usual five-star product they normally produce. Also throw into the mix home warranty obligations and I think mainstream developers’ standards won’t slip.

“However, smaller developers may just jump at the chance of this ‘automatic planning permission’ concept.

One of the sad economic casualties of the pandemic has been the number of people who have sadly lost their jobs as a result of redundancy. Whilst others have been able to reflect on their current position and decide whether to move to pastures new.

Recruitment in the conveyancing sector seems to be high at the moment, and the Property Team at Talbots Law are recruiting.

Oliver added:

“Our workload has increased substantially since the re-opening of the market and we would like to recruit talented individuals into our teams to help us with this demand. I predict this pent-up demand for housing will continue for some time.

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