Mark Peck, Director, Cheffins, says:

“The housing market in 2020 has been like no other. At Cheffins we have handled over £358 million-worth of property and agreed over 1,200 house sales between January and December. With the number of current agreed sales at a record high, the next three months are likely to see unprecedented levels of property moves as buyers and sellers both look to finalise transactions ahead of the stamp duty holiday deadline.

Transaction levels have gone through the roof in comparison to the past couple of years due to the monumental backlog of people looking to move. Political uncertainty, Brexit and the first lockdown period caused many who were considering selling to sit on the fence, however the announcement of the stamp duty holiday was the trigger for many of these to bite the bullet and get on with moving house. This, coupled with the change in lifestyle which has been caused by the coronavirus outbreak, has created a pressure cooker in the market which has resulted in activity which couldn’t have been foreseen around a year ago. Lockdown focussed the minds of many on how they want to live. For example, in our local market in East Anglia we have seen around three times as many buyers looking to move from London and other urban locations. Home offices, sizeable gardens and broadband speeds are now the order of the day, rather than speedy commutes or city living.

Whilst traditionally December is the quietest month in the residential calendar, there are so many factors impacting the housing market this year; and with COVID, low interest rates and the stamp duty holiday, we expect this festive season to be busier than ever before. These factors are now foremost in buyers’ minds rather than Christmas itself. In fact, the numbers of transactions look to be twice the number this December in comparison with last year. With massive savings to be had ahead of the stamp duty deadline and a captive audience over December due to a lack of Christmas parties, holidays and other entertainment, now really is a good time to sell. In addition, a shortage of stock has focussed competition between buyers, helping to push up prices for properties which are available across all of our offices in Cambridge, Ely, Saffron Walden, Newmarket and Haverhill.

It is difficult to foresee what the market will hold in store for next year. There will certainly be a massive rush to complete on sales in the first quarter of the year, ahead of the stamp duty deadline, however from April onwards we could see a drop in transactions, should the tax break fall off a cliff edge. What we really need to know is the Chancellor’s plans for the stamp duty break from April onwards, should the tax break be slowly eased, we expect that 2021 will also see a busy summer, however in the case that stamp duty should return to its previous levels, we could experience a drop in property sales, particularly if buyers look to renegotiate on purchase prices to cover the tax bill. In spite of this, people’s reasons for moving will still remain, and the drive to upsize, downsize or search for more space will continue to be very much a reality. 2021 will be a year to remember, with the vaccine roll out and the Brexit transition, it is impossible to predict how the wider economy and political landscape will impact property sales. Luckily for us in East Anglia, the Cambridge jobs market continues to be incredibly strong, with some of the world’s leading organisations looking to bring employees to the region. This, coupled with the lifestyle on offer regionally, helps to keep demand high for property across all of the market in which we operate.”

Sarah Bush, Director, Cheffins, says:

“We have seen a significant uptick in the number of tenants looking to rent in and around Cambridge, with enquiries for all property types having risen since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, post lockdown, we’ve had an increase of around 25 per cent in enquiries for rental properties in Cambridge and the surrounding area. The residential lettings market has followed the same behaviours as sales, with demand at record highs for properties both in Cambridge city centre and the surrounding towns and villages. The Cheffins lettings team has rented in excess of 600 properties throughout 2020, with average monthly rental values of £1,000 per calendar month. As tenants seek out properties with more space for working from home or larger gardens as a result of the pandemic, we have seen consistent demand across all of our offices from tenants both locally and from London. This has also helped to strengthen the market for rural properties which have seen renewed interest from tenants due to the work from home effect and the lack of an everyday commute for many.

There is a chronic shortage of stock across all of our offices, and demand has been outstripping supply at a rapid pace. On average, each property we market has around three offers from tenants, and this competition is leading to increased rental values across all property types and locations. Similarly, we have seen an uptick in the number of rental properties currently under management. These have increased on the same time period last year, due to Cheffins’ consistent level of service. Unlike many other agents, we have not put our management properties into a centralised system, rather each landlord has a dedicated property manager, which ensured consistency of service throughout the year, even during the lockdown period.

Looking ahead to 2021, I believe that the industry will remain robust as the lettings market will not be as affected by the stamp duty deadline as sales. We forecast that demand for both city and rural properties will remain strong as people’s working patterns continue to change as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Shortage of stock is set to remain, however, there are still landlords out there looking to expand their portfolios as buy-to-let property continues to be viewed as a reliable investment vehicle. There will forever be a need for rental properties, and with the COVID-19 vaccine and the return to normal for many on the horizon, we are hopeful that the New Year will bring with it a renewed vigour for the lettings market.”