Around £82bn worth of property sales have been put on hold due to coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown measures, according to new research.
This equates to almost 373,000 home sales which have stalled since the end of March, when the government urged the public to delay moving into new homes if possible.
Due to social distancing rules, home viewings and valuations have been made challenging, leading to a freeze in the housing market.
The lockdown measures have also affected self builders and renovators in the midst of projects, with some deciding to step back from their projects and prepare for work to resume later in the year.
The research from property consultants Zoopla, reveals that the majority of the 373,000 sales were agreed between November 2019 and February 2020, and were expected to have been completed between April and June.
Richard Donnell, director of research and insight at Zoopla, said: “Parts of the market are at a virtual standstill as a result of the physical restrictions that have stopped new supply coming to the market and the viewing of homes for sale.”
The government has said that people can continue to move houses in limited circumstances, such as when a property is vacant, but otherwise home-movers should agree alternative dates to move.
Could Demand Start to Rise?
While housing sector activity has diminished, there is evidence that demand for housing could be rebounding.
Last week, Rightmove reported that buyers were making offers based on virtual viewings of properties. And Zoopla’s report revealed that Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds have all experienced increased housing demand in the past fortnight.
While the rate of sales falling through peaked on 23 March, Zoopla says the outlook “depends upon how long the restrictions remain in place, the scale of the economic impact, and how this impacts would-be buyers and their ability to proceed with sales”.
Donnell added: “Demand is rising but there is a long way to go until we see a return to typical levels of market activity. However, the online browsing of homes for sale and buyers expressing interest in property have been rising off a low base over the last two to three weeks.
“Many households have spent more time at home in the last few weeks and some may feel the urge to move and find more space or consider the potential for remote working.
“This could boost activity in the second half of 2020, but this all depends upon how much the economy is impacted over the rest of the year and the impact on levels of unemployment.”