Our special panel of experts look at how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the property market.
In general, buyers of new homes are looking for quality, value for money and good locations. Generous garden areas are also definitely one of the things that matters most.
There are two groups of house buyers really - people who want to take on a project and put their own stamp on it, whether to achieve their dream house or make some money on it; then there are those that want a house that requires no work at all.
It’s simple - whatever suits their needs. Buyers tend to look for properties with enough space as it can be overwhelming if things are too cluttered. We’ve just sold our house to a family who need a larger place as their children grow up, while we’ve decided to down-size as we don’t need all that space.
It varies widely, be it space for a growing family, proximity to good schools or work, or simply a space they love to spend time in. Often we find house hunters in Cumbria have a great eye for a property's potential, and are not afraid to invest in a property which needs substantial remodelling.
The change over the last 12 months has been a noticeable requirement for larger properties - I suspect working from home and the increased time that we are all spending in our homes has been instrumental. Also, demand for property with good size gardens and more rural locations, or the outskirts of towns.
People tend to want more space now - I suppose they are potentially planning to be spending more time at home. I’ve even spoken to people who want two living rooms, for themselves and if they have older children they might build an extension or convert the garage into a games room.
I’m part of the John Lewis Business network and they’ve seen a whopping increase in people setting up home offices. Ironically, despite the focus on working from home, people are also creating spaces for home bars or they want outdoor space for a cocktail bar because they aren’t able to go out.
This last year has made everyone realise adaptability is key, and I think this applies to how we now view our homes, with people looking at spaces differently and seeing how, for example, a home office or gym can be incorporated, and a growing importance of outside space.
An extension is always likely to increase a house’s value, particularly if this allows an open plan family kitchen-diner to be created. This is something that seems to be very popular in all levels of the market.
You can spend £20,000 on a new kitchen, but it won’t add £20,000 to the value. Things that will increase the value are adding downstairs toilet and washing facilities, making rooms more open plan, and a key thing you can add is a driveway or a garage to park cars.
I specialise in staging, which is taking what you’ve got and enhancing the best bits rather than wholesale changes. Having the right lighting and improving the appearance with paint or tiling can add up to 8 per cent to the value, which is massive.
Where the size or number of rooms is increased, when good design and build principles are applied, a property’s value will increase, be this from an extension, loft conversion or internal remodelling. The kitchen is the social hub of the house, so larger, often open plan kitchen diners are regularly on our clients’ wish list.
The increased focus on where people are living is partly driven by virus-related restrictions, with the increase in time that we are all spending at home. The current high level of activity and sales follows a subdued period for house sales, due to the Brexit uncertainty and tight mortgage supply.
Unlike the first lockdown, this time we are open as normal and valuations and surveys are taking place, so in that respect there is no reason why people can’t move. The main impact it is having is that some people are being more cautious, especially people who are furloughed.
It has made people re-evaluate what they want and need from a house, and that perhaps their quality of life is more important than money. Especially in Cumbria, we’ve also seen people moving away from cities to more rural areas because they are wanting more space.
Whilst the practicalities of viewing properties and moving are incredibly challenging at the moment, the market seems to remain buoyant. It has re-emphasised the importance the space in which we live has on our general wellbeing and seems to have spurred on their desire to find or develop the space they want to live in.