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Coronavirus: 'Unprecedented' surge in property sales as English market reopens

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·2-min read
SWINDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 20: A for sale sign down a street in what is known as the Railway Village on February 20, 2019 in Swindon, England. The area once housed the workers of the GWR (Great Western Railway) but now comprises of private and social housing. The car manufacturer Honda announced on Tuesday it is to shut down the Swindon plant in 2022, putting 3,500 jobs at risk. The factory is Honda's only EU plant and has produced the Honda's 'Civic' model for over 24 years, with 150,000 of the cars rolling off the line annually. The manufacturer is a major employer in the town of around 220,000 and sits on the M4 corridor between London to the East and Bristol to the West. In 1986 one of the towns last major employers GWR (Great Western Railway) closed it's doors after a 140 year history of Railway locomotive manufacture putting around 1,500 people out of work. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Homes in Swindon as the English property market has seen a bounce in activity. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

England’s property market has seen an “unprecedented rebound” in sales since coronavirus lockdown rules were eased, according to Zoopla.

The property listing site said new sales in the UK over the past month were close to pre-lockdown levels in early March. Prices were up 6% on June last year on average, while demand, a measure based on analysis of Zoopla site visits, is up 54% on the start of March.

The figures are for the UK as a whole but reflect soaring activity in England, with house moves still more difficult under stricter lockdown rules in the rest of the UK.

Zoopla analysis released on Wednesday indicates not only pent-up demand while viewings and valuations were restricted, but also that the pandemic has brought “a whole new cohort of would-be movers” into the housing market.

READ MORE: UK house prices drop for a third month but demand picks up

New sales are much higher outside the capital, with Zoopla suggesting more buyers are looking outside London and considering commuting into London.

Richard Donnell, director of research and insight, said expectations of a swift drop in UK property prices as the pandemic has ravaged Britain’s economy appeared misplaced. He said the new data pointed to continued house price growth in the next two months.

But he also said the spike in demand was likely to be “short-lived,” with the downturn eventually likely to “feed through” into market sentiment and activity in the second half of the year.

Bank of England figures suggest prices could fall 16% this year. But widespread use of mortgage holidays, job protection schemes and other government crisis support may also be bolstering the market for now.

Zoopla found sales of higher-value homes had increased most, with transactions up 16% on early March for properties priced at £1m ($1.3m) or more. Better-off homeowners are looking at “trading up for more space or moving to a better location,” according to the site.