Thu 23 Sep 2021 View all news articles

The unseen challenges of the busiest housing market ever!

There are news articles, almost daily, reporting on how busy the UK housing market has been since lockdown restrictions were lifted in May 2020 and how property prices are now on the rise. Personally, I’ve never known a market quite like it! I founded Karl Tatler Estate Agents in 1997 and before that I worked for two estate agents from 1985, when I entered the industry at 18 years old. The closest I can recall to the current market was in the late 80’s when demand was high and property prices rose sharply; but it doesn’t compare with our current market, in my opinion.

Pent up demand, going back several years, record low interest rates and generous Stamp Duty holidays were significant factors in triggering a spike in activity. However, the unforeseen seismic impact of the pandemic, resulting in so many people re-evaluating their lifestyles, has led to activity levels I’ve never seen before.

Whilst on the face of it, it is lovely to see so many people re-evaluating in this way, with people moving up and down the property ladder and many more joining the property market for the first time, there are hidden challenges, which are not reported by the media. I thought it would be helpful to those currently buying and selling if I shared some of the challenges facing the industry at this time, to try and manage expectations and to provide a deeper understanding of the journey ahead once your purchase/sale is agreed.

To put it simply, the number of sales hoping to complete is almost double the last five-year average on the Wirral. The problem is, although certain links in the chain can respond to this increase in volume, some simply can’t! For example, Karl Tatler Estate Agents has increased its Sales Progression Team from five to eleven dedicated professionals, to keep our clients up to date with their sale but despite this investment our team is stretched to the limit. However, there are crucial professional organisations that simply can’t suddenly increase their staffing levels.

There are a finite number of surveyors and solicitors/conveyancers, for example. It takes a minimum of five to seven years to become a surveyor or solicitor and therefore it is simply not possible for these fundamental elements of the process to increase staffing to handle, what will ultimately be, a relatively short-term problem.

Therefore, the biggest challenge for my Sales Progression Team and ultimately our buyers and sellers, is that the solicitors/conveyancers are at breaking point, if not in many cases beyond breaking point! They currently have twice the ‘efficient’ number of transactions to deal with at any one time, resulting in inevitable reduced service levels. Timescales from offer to exchange of contracts are currently at their longest average time ever as a result! Solicitors are finding it extremely challenging, and the sales just keep on coming. The size of their pipelines just hasn’t started to reduce and they can’t see that light at the end of the tunnel, yet!

This bottleneck causes huge frustrations for all concerned in the process, especially our clients who can’t understand why their sales are taking so long, or why their solicitor rarely takes or returns their calls. This is a huge problem right now, however, I am hopeful that this burden will begin to ease in the coming weeks. The third and final Stamp Duty holiday deadline passes on the 30th September which should help to ease some of the tensions. The number of new instructions coming to the market on the Wirral has returned to 2019 levels in recent weeks and although demand for these properties is still high, the size of the market will naturally begin to shrink as we move through quarter four. This is totally normal, and we expect around 40% fewer properties to come to the market in October, November, and December, compared with the monthly average for the rest of the year. This should allow the solicitors/conveyancers to begin to get on top of their workload and I expect to see progressively larger numbers of sales exchanging each month, right up until December, which is better news for those of you currently in the process of buying or selling a property.

I appreciate that moving home is a hugely emotive time for everyone and although this article doesn’t help to solve the problem, I do hope that it helps you understand the enormity of the challenges facing those trying to conclude your transaction and that this will allow a little more patience and understanding for the professionals who are genuinely trying to do the best they possibly can for you.

Karl Tatler

Managing Director

Karl Tatler Estate Agents.

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