Demand for prime-value homes spikes as coronavirus deepens wealth divide

Linda J. Dodson

Pent-up demand has led to a dramatic resurgence in property sales in England but this is led by prime properties – leading to fears the trend could polarise the market and deepen the country’s wealth divide.

The housing market is recovering from a seven-week freeze that suspended an estimated 373,000 transactions and saw agreed sales plummet to just 10pc of the pre-lockdown level.

In the first week of June, the number of agreed sales in England jumped 54pc compared with the previous week, according to estate agents Savills. This was also 6pc higher than the average weekly sales rate in June 2019.

In the same week, buyer demand (measured by the number of enquiries) was up 54pc compared with the beginning of March, according to property portal Zoopla. The number of properties listed for sale was also up by 5pc.

However, this has been led by rural and high-end properties as buyers look to trade up to larger homes after lockdown. Richard Donnnell, director of research at Zoopla, said: “New sales in London are lagging behind as buyers look at commuting and moving into the regions.”

The number of sales agreed by Savills was up 108pc last week compared with the previous week. But in the Home Counties, the number rose 148pc, driven by activity in locations including Henley, Harpenden, Marlow, Farnham and Guildford.

Andrew Perratt, of Savills, added that buyers in the Cotswolds, Devon and Cornwall were looking to replace their second homes with larger primary residences.

The contrast for prime and cheaper properties is stark. The number of agreed sales worth more than £1m doubled week-on-week and were 17pc higher than the June 2019 average. Yet sales involving homes worth less than £100,000 rose by only 48pc compared with the previous week and were still 16pc down on last year.

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