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'Like the cork coming out of a champagne bottle': Midlands property market busy dealing with surge in demand

By John Corser | South Staffordshire | Property | Published:

House sales have soared since lockdown restrictions were eased, estate agents said today.

The scale of the bounce back has surprised experts and brought some hope for the region’s economic recovery post-coronavirus.

Buyer demand spiked by 88 per cent after estate agents were given the go ahead to buy and sell properties once again.

Estate agents have likened pent-up demand to a “cork from a champagne bottle”as business has risen to levels above that experienced before lockdown was imposed.

Housing analysts warn the high interest following the easing of lockdown will not continue at current levels and it is uncertain how the housing market will respond to Britain heading into a post-virus recession.

But the West Midlands housing market was today described as surprisingly healthy, with up to 80 enquiries for some in-demand properties.

Tim Hughes of estate agent Bartlams, said viewings have restarted.

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He added: “There has been a log jam and since we have been released from lockdown there has been something of an avalanche.

“I have read all sorts of reports of house prices going to plummet.

“But I speak as I find and as far as we are seeing demand is high.”

Estate agents across the Black Country, Shropshire and Staffordshire have been busy handling a surge in enquiries from both buyers and sellers.

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And it means people's house-moving hopes and dreams can finally be realised after the UK was placed on hold in mid March.

Tom Davies and his wife Jacqueline had to wait until the property market reopened to finally put their five-bedroomed home in Codsall Wood on the market.

Tom and Jackie Davies of Whitehouse Lane in Codsall Wood

"We had spoken before Christmas about putting it on the market before everything went crazy," said Mr Davies, who is retired and a former Royal Mail finance manager.

When the couple came back from a cruise in February they were unable to act to place the house, which they bought in November 2013 and moved into in August 2014, on the market.

Once restrictions were released and the property was advertised by agents Berriman Eaton at £499,950, Mr Davies said there had been enormous early interest.

"Properties like this don't come on the market in Codsall Wood that often. We expected there to be interest, but were surprised it was quite so quick," he added.

The couple are looking for something of a similar size but with a bigger garden for themselves.

Hannah Lee, a tax adviser with PwC, and her partner put their two-bedroom semi-detached house in Codsall on the market before the lockdown and Berriman Eaton had a lot of interest.

There were five viewings on the Saturday immediately after estate agents were allowed to start operating again and received two offers.

Hannah Lee of Sandy Lane in Codsall

"It was sold subject to contract straight away. We got £1,000 more than the asking price of £205,000.

"I didn't want to have to commute into central Birmingham any more. It is a relief to have got a sale.

"We will be moving as soon as everything goes through.

"We didn't really know how much the lockdown would would affect prices and how much desire there would be to buy, but were pleasantly surprised to get it sold so quickly," said Hannah. She and her fiance are looking for a suitable apartment in Birmingham.

Nick Berriman, a director of Berriman Eaton, said there had been no advance warning of estate agents being allowed to resume.

"It came as a complete shock. It was announced at 10pm that we could open the next day at 9am. It was a bolt from the blue," he said.

"Fortunately we had systems in place for what to do when the lockdown eased.

"During the lockdown we had certain key members of staff working from home. I came in to the office every day to deal with post and keep on top of things.

"Our rental department was still operative with reduced numbers dealing with tenants maintenance issues and leases needing to be renewed.

Nick Berriman and Caroline Eaton

We were keeping a list of enquiries from people to deal with once restrictions were lifted.

"The levels of enquiries during lockdown were enormous – it completely surprised us all.

"Across our three offices in Tettenhall, Wombourne and Bridgnorth we had 150 viewings to organise when people were out of lockdown for people who wanted to view as soon as they could.

"There was a lot of pent-up demand and we have been very busy."

All three offices have the front door locked and appointments are only by prior arrangement, but the phones are ringing steadily with people wanting valuations and to begin instructions.

"It was like the cork coming out of a champagne bottle. People whoo have been living in flats realised the importance of having a garden and others realised their house was too big or too small. It has given people time to reassess," he added.

"I am cautiously confident about the market as a whole. We are still waiting to see what happens in the next couple of months, but the signs are that it is a strong market – it is looking quite promising.

"We are having a lot of enquiries from both potential vendors and buyers alike.

"We are still experiencing pent up release and need to see what happens in the future.

"A lot of people are coming back to us who had their houses valued in December and January asking up to get it on the market.

"If the level of momentum continues then the market could return to normality in a few months.

"January and February across the country was astonishingly busy."

Mr Berriman said that for viewings of properties they were taking steps to look after clients and staff. Precautions include wearing gloves, sanitiser and masks.

"We are asking people to wear PPE and only up to two people at a time can view a house," he explained.

Berriman Eaton, which was formed in 2006, is now unfurloughing key staff. All staff will be back in place when the business can finally open its front doors again

Mr Berriman said: "We are finding a very similar story across all three offices which are experiencing a surge in demand. A lot of people move out of necessity – divorce, death, job relocation and first-time buyers are ever present."

Toby Shaw at Towler Shaw Roberts, which has offices in Shrewsbury, Telford and Wolverhampton, said: "We have continued to remain busy during the Covid period. We have furloughed some staff, but other areas, particularly agency, building surveying and asset management have been working full time.

"Viewings obviously have been difficult because we haven’t been able to do them, but we have still been able to complete a number of transactions during the Covid period.

"We have definitely noticed an upturn in enquiries during the last seven to 10 days and have been a lot busier with a number of new instructions coming through.

"We have set out a policy for our staff and clients in terms of viewings, inspections and general protocols. We have reviewed the operation of our offices which may at times involve some home working for certain members of staff."

John Corser

By John Corser
Business Reporter - @JohnCorser_Star

Express & Star Business Editor at head office, Wolverhampton. Welcomes all news of companies and business organisations.

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