Property Market Pulse April 2020

By Stuart Boughey

It is not easy to pen a market update in a climate where many of our peers, colleagues, inter-profession business contacts, friends and even family members are facing difficult times. Indeed, one might question the madness and call out “There is no market! What are you talking about?!” and I wouldn’t blame you. But I implore you to bear with me on this....

While it feels as though the world has stopped turning in many ways and we can certainly all be forgiven for forgetting it ; we must note that the current state of affairs (lockdown) has only been in play for 3 weeks ( or 15 ordinary business days. )

Prior to then, working from home was encouraged, although not mandatory. Markets continued to function largely unaffected. Since then of course, we have had to adjust to business through Zoom, the word “Furlough” or in some unfortunate cases, redundancies.

It is no wonder it feels like an eternity. It’s tough.

While it may not bring any comfort to anyone right now, from an industry perspective we have to look forward to what is likely to happen given the trajectory of the market prior to lockdown. It hasn’t vanished. It is merely on ‘Pause’.

Now is a great time to focus on family, caring for our communities and the wellbeing of others, learning new professional skills or simply getting our affairs in order to get through this together.

When this very real threat passes - however long it takes - we are likely to be in for a very busy - albeit challenging- time as we adapt to a new world and a changed industry.

Whatever the new world will look like, the UK market can be perceived as a tightly coiled spring right now, waiting for the pent up potential to be unleashed. Brexit uncertainty has really put the kibosh on our national pastime of property in recent years and just as the first sign of a light at the end of the tunnel began to burn ever brighter, Covid-19 came along and has blocked the way.

Will we let it dampen our spirits and our passion? No. We will fight through this.

We will enjoy everything so much more after being denied it for however long the lockdown lasts.

Could we see a renewed vigour for supporting/investing in pubs? New mortgage products? A fairer more transparent market? A boom in new housing supply and construction to help people onto the ladder? Actual affordable housing so we can all realise the dream of homeownership? A significant investment in infrastructure and housing for key workers?

It’ s difficult to say right now, but let’s hope we can come out on the other side stronger and better people and as a society on the whole.

While the £ symbols may slump for a while and indeed transaction levels may take time to recover and as policy is adjusted - the market will return with gusto. History teaches it nearly always does.

Wuhan, the city in China where the Coronavirus was first noticed has, at the time of writing, had it’s lockdown lifted following 3 continuous months of total lockdown and across China, life is apparently starting to get back to some semblance of normalcy.

So what can we in Britain learn from this? The property side of life is hopefully going to be a mere blip in economic terms and the levels of growth seen pre-Lockdown are probably going to return after a few months, assuming governments and policy makers world wide make prudent decisions. On the other hand it could turn into a deep global depression, but hey, we are only 4 weeks in and we need to stay focussed and in the now.

It’s a shock to the senses to every possible type of market player without a doubt. But the pause is temporary, no matter how hopeless things seem right now.

Before we look at the figures and the news stories happening outside of Covid-19, so much as possible, I want to wish everyone the very best of health and wellbeing during these difficult times . Stay safe.



  • March 2020 UK Average House Price Index (Nationwide, Seasonally Adjusted): £219,583
  • March 2020 UK Average House Price Index (Halifax, Non-Seasonally Adjusted): £240,384
  • UK National average (all property types) asking price (Rightmove, March 2020) : £312,625
  • Number of Mortgage approvals ( Bank of England data) ** : 73,500
  • Number of sales registered at HMRC (January 2020)**: 102,810
  • Provisional Seasonally Adjusted Number of Sales at HMRC (February 2020): 103,870

London & South East

  • Strongest Market in London***: Lambeth
  • Weakest Market in London***: Havering
  • Listing to Finding a Buyer in London: 67 days
  • South East Average Asking Price: £408,796

**Based on most recently available figures (February 2020)
***Based on Annual Asking Price Changes, Rightmove March 2020 (Three Monthly
Rolling Average,prior to lockdown)


  • Robert Jenrick announces a huge shake up to building safety schemes by making , among other features, sprinkler systems and consistent wayfinding signage mandatory in all new high-rise blocks of flats over 11 metres tall - He also announced another £1 billion of funding for removal of unsafe cladding materials, development of a website for leaseholders and lenders to access the information needed to proceed with sales and remortgaging, the introduction of a Fire Safety Bill and a system of naming building owners who have been slow to act in removing unsafe ACM cladding

Source: MCHLG

  • Government creates a Model Tenancy Agreement and accompanying
  • guidance for letting agents.

Source: MCHLG

  • Help to Buy Scheme potentially being extended as discussion to kick start the construction industry post Covid-19 Crisis begin

Source: Mortgage Introducer

  • Estates Agents could be among the first businesses to open when lockdown procedures begin to be relaxed.

Source: Various, Mortgage Solutions

  • Galliard gets the planning greenlight for a 2,000 Home mixed-use Commercial Development in Southall

Source: Co-Star


Nationwide (March 2020) (excl. Covid-related Disruption)

  • Annual house price growth edges up to 3%, - the fastest pace since January 2018
  • 0.8% rise month-on-month, February to March after taking account of seasonal factors.

Robert Gardner, Nationwide's Chief Economist;

In the opening months of 2020, before the pandemic struck the UK, the housing
market had been gathering momentum, underpinned by low borrowing costs, robust
labour market and a degree of political stability.

This was demonstrated by an annual growth rate of 3%, up 2.3% from February and
representing the fastest pace since January 2018 (3.2%). March also continued the
the trend of month-on-month growth increases seen in the last 6 months.

Our figures use a full month’s data to compile the index and the cut off point is
slightly before the end of the month, the data here is not reflective of the figures
following the government’s lockdown procedures.

We anticipate a significant near term contraction of economic activity, but economic
policies aimed at protecting businesses and jobs, to support peoples’ incomes and
keep borrowing costs down, should set the stage for a strong rebound once the
shock passes, and help limit long-term damage to the economy.

In the meantime, predicting house price trends will become more difficult as the
market grinds to a halt and transaction levels dwindle.” *

National Average

Average Price (seasonally adjusted) £219,583
Monthly Change: 0.8%
Annual Change: 3.0%

Halifax (March 2020)

House prices in March were 3% higher than in the same month a year earlier

  • On a monthly basis, house prices were flat at 0.0%
  • In the latest quarter (January to March to February) house prices were 2.1% higher than in the preceding three months (October to December)

Russell Galley, Managing Director, Halifax:

“The UK housing market began March with similar trends to previous months, as
key market indicators showed a sustained level of buyer and seller activity, with little
change over the month from February, however annual growth nudged to 3%.

This underlined a positive trajectory at the beginning of the month but of course the
climate has changed significantly since then. As market activity has paused and
transactions are put on hold; with less data available, calculating average house
prices is likely to become more challenging in the short-term.

However, it’s still too early to properly assess what potential long-term impacts the
current lockdown might have on the UK housing market and much will depend on
economic policy, consumer sentiment and how long restrictions will last. We
continue to have confidence in the fundamental strength of the housing market and
remain House Price ready and willing to lend on new mortgages, as well as product
transfers and further advances, wherever and whenever there is demand”*

Average price: £240,384

Quarterly change: +2.1%
Annual change: +3.0%
Monthly change: 0.0%

*Some comments have been edited for length and/or clarity.

The RICS – Residential Market Survey (February 2020)

  • Shown demand, sales and new instructions all rise for a third successive month.
  • Buyer demand has a net balance of +20% (+23% previously).
  • Agreed sales rose for a third time to a net balance of +22% in February.
  • Instructions to sell also showed a net balance of +15% (+19% previously).
  • Lettings demand remained positive, rising at the same.

The RICS in March:

  • House prices rise in the three months to March, but the outlook turns negative
  • Near term expectations fall dramatically
  • Rents also seen to be falling in the coming months, although long term outlook is positive


  • New Buyer enquiries - A run of three successive monthly increases was brought to an abrupt end, with a net balance of -74% of respondents across the UK as a whole reporting a fall in enquiries during March.
  • An uptick in sales volumes that had been seen since December 2019 went into reverse, evidenced by a headline net balance of -69% of survey participants noting a decline over the month.
  • Near term sales expectations are deeply negative following the government’s lockdown measures, with the latest net balance of -92%
  • The survey’s indicator capturing near term price expectations sunk from a net balance of +21% in February, to post a figure of -82% in March
  • Inventory levels slipped noticeably during March, hitting a fresh record low of 40 properties, on average, per branch.
  • With regards to the twelve month view, price expectations are somewhat less negative, as a net balance of -38% of respondents envisage house prices falling over the year to come (this is down from a positive net balance of +71% in February, however)
  • Sentiment on the medium term outlook for prices has proved a lot more resilient. Respondents currently expect price growth to average just over 2.5%, per annum, over the next five years

Source: RICS March 2020


● February is estimated to have seen 103,870 residential property transactions
● An uptick of 4.5% on the month and 6.0% on the year

Latest available figures for January 2020 paint the following picture:

● The average price of a property stood at £231,185
● This is 1.3% above where it was a year prior
● On the month, this was up- 1.1 % from December 2019.

These are the confirmed numbers from HMRC for January 2019
HMRC Details for January 2020

Bank of England

  • Mortgage approvals stood at 73,500 - a leap of +3.67% on the month January 2020 to February 2020
  • Net Mortgage borrowing stood £4.0 billion in February
  • Approvals for remortgage also rose on the month, by 2.4%, to 53,400
  • Annual growth rate for mortgage borrowing stood at 3.5%

Source: Bank of England February 2020


Source: Rightmove (Asking Prices) March 2020

Properties listed 9th February 2020 to 7th March 2020
Data Released 16th March 2020 and comments pre-date Covid-19 restrictions.

Fast Facts March 2020

  • The average price of property coming to the Market in London in March hits it’s highest annual rate of growth since May 2016 at 5.1 %
  • The average price for a property in Greater London is £638,826
  • The number of sales agreed jumps 34.4% compared to the same time last year (the highest rate of growth since the same time period in 2016.)
  • Listing to finding a buyer time slips in a positive direction from 80 days in February to 67 days on Average. (18% quicker that last year).
  • Disparity between supply and demand as new seller numbers rise by just 7.9%

Miles Shipside, Rightmove director and housing market analyst;

“With the average asking prices are over 5% higher as we enter the traditionally busy spring
moving season and as the turnaround in the capital gathers pace, prospective buyers are now
having to contend with prices increasing at the fastest annual rate since May 2016. Many
more properties are being bought, and bought more quickly than at this time last year. This is
further fuelling the existing shortage of property available for sale, driving up prices in the
areas that are leading London’s recovery”

He further comments that

“New supply to the market has failed to keep anything close to the pace of increased
demand in this recovery. Purchasers in a position to buy have been snapping up what’s
currently on the market, rather than waiting for the usual post-Easter flurry of fresh supply.
There are more owners putting their properties on the market compared to this time last
year, but it is usual for sellers to want to wait for another month or two until there are more
leaves on the trees to soften the starkness of their photographs and harden up their pricing

Rightmove does go onto state:

It is hard to predict how this post-election boost in market activity will be affected by
the unknown impact of the Covid-19 coronavirus. (The) Budget mainly focused on this
issue rather than on housing and major stamp duty reforms. Whilst any savings in
stamp duty would have been welcomed by purchasers, Rightmove’s latest statistics
indicate that the market fundamentals remain broadly sound. The new 2% stamp duty
surcharge for non-UK residents may eventually temper the current recovery in some
sectors of the London market from April 2021, though it will also provide a negotiating
advantage to UK buyers.

*Some comments have been edited for Length and/or clarity.



Avg MP



Greater London




Inner London




Outer London




South East






Avg MP



First-Time Buyers




Second - Steppers




Top of the Ladder






Avg MP



National Average




First-time Buyers








Top of the Ladder






(Organised by top annual growth to least annual growth)



Avg. price March

Monthly Change (%)

Annual Change





Kensington & Chelsea












Waltham Forest




Tower Hamlets
























Kingston Upon Thames












Richmond Upon Thames




















Hammersmith & Fulham
















Barking & Dagenham





































That brings the April round up to a conclusion and in these fast moving times, I urge you to keep an eye on the latest news. This article is intended as a reality check that getting caught up in the hyperbole and conjecture can sometimes lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy and it’s easy to forget the trajectory before everything paused.

I look forward to seeing you next month.. Until then, stay safe, stay positive and stay at home!



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About the author

Stuart Boughey  avatar

Stuart Boughey

Being the forensic detailed driven Surveyor that he is, Stuart's analysis and interpretation of all things property market related make him the best person within the Arnold & Baldwin family to bring you all of the latest news and commentary. Having trained in London, his knowledge of the area is fantastic. If you would like to make suggestions on any improvements, or additional information for Stuart to focus on, his phone is always on!

Read more about Stuart Boughey

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