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Coronavirus impact on UK housing might be short lived, thinks expat mortgage broker

Coronavirus impact on UK housing might be short lived, thinks Offshoreonline

There’s no doubt the COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic effect on the UK housing market, with the UK lockdown effectively bringing many UK housing transactions to a sudden halt. As estate agents and buyers are unable to visit sellers, it was inevitable the market would stall temporarily. Valuations too, cannot take place for the same lockdown reasons.

Yet just four weeks ago, Rightmove, the UK’s largest property portal, was reporting a very different picture, with average new seller asking prices hitting a record high of £312,625, pushing annual price growth to 3.5%. Rightmove added that the:

  • Number of sales agreed was up by 17.8%, to the highest at this time of year since 2016
  • Properties were selling an average of 6% faster nationally, and 18% more quickly in London
  • Rightmove itself recorded its five busiest days ever in February 2020 saw a similar return to growth with expat buy to let mortgage enquiries up substantially in Q1 2020, compared to 2019. Offshoreonline recorded more expat mortgage enquiries in January 2020 alone than in the whole of the last quarter of 2019, with this pattern holding true for Spanish and French euro mortgage enquiries too.

Guy Stephenson, director of Offshoreonline explains, “For the expat buyer of UK property, the UK general election result released demand which commentators knew had been building for several years while the Brexit negotiations faltered and stalled. As soon as this picture became clear, the effect was immediate. Yet at the same time and almost unnoticed in Europe, the COVID-19 pandemic was just taking off and this has had a dramatic effect.”

Stephenson continues, “However, the vast majority of expat buyers of UK buy to let property come from parts of the world which have suffered far less from COVID-19, areas such as the Middle East, Singapore and even Hong Kong. Buoyed by the success of containing SARS in 2003, Asian governments have deployed tried and tested techniques which have helped them recover quickly. Already we are seeing enquiries coming from Singapore and Hong Kong again.”

For the moment, this new demand must remain patient while the UK remains on lockdown, but for those with expat mortgage applications pre-approved, they will be the first away from the starting gun, when the UK recovery starts.

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