Here, Michael Tolland, Commercial Director- Scotland, reflects on the highs and lows of 2020 and what’s on the horizon for 2021:
With 2020 drawing to a close and thoughts turning towards a very well-deserved festive break for all involved in the Scottish property market, the team at Property Searches Scotland thought it might be worth reflecting on this most challenging of years.
2020 started with a relative bang, with UK House Price Index Scotland data suggesting that the residential property market increased by 5.2% in January/February 2020 compared with the previous year.
And then along came Covid…
The entire country entered lockdown on 23rd March, with the residential property market effectively mothballed for a period of three months due to restrictions on completing transactions unless deemed ‘reasonably necessary’.
Turning again to UK House Price Index Scotland data for residential properties, this indicates that completions in 2020 as a proportion of the figures for 2019 were March – 74.9%; April – 34.2%; May 34.4% and June 42.9%.
Of course, another feature of the spring lockdown was the requirement for all businesses to migrate to home working. This was not without its challenges, however it is our assessment that most firms transitioned through this stage relatively successfully with home working, at least on a part-time basis. Although, for those staff that would prefer it, it’s likely to be a feature of working practices in the future.
The hope is that this development will be positive for work life balance and the environment, although what it will mean in the longer run for town and city centres, particularly the hospitality and commercial property sectors, has yet to be realised.
And then the summer months and the second half of the year…
The residential property market effectively reopened on 29th June – who knew this was also the first day of the Scottish autumn, as the unseasonably warm and dry weather enjoyed during much of lockdown came to a rather abrupt end!
Estate agents and surveyors immediately reported a substantial increase in demand in early July and, from our perspective as a leading search company with a residential market share upwards of 30%, this translated to a steep and sustained increase in new multisearch instructions from week 28 commencing 6th July 2020, right through to the current time.
This unprecedently busy period, particularly following the depressed market during Q2 2020 with many employed in the sector having been furloughed, has placed huge demand on the entire sector.
Our understanding, and this is informed by conversations with our customers, is that firms are generally coping well with these fresh challenges. Transactions are largely completing on schedule and, again from our perspective, the proportion of cases that result in a request for a second or further Continuation Legal Report or a ‘No Sale No Fee’ credit has reduced significantly compared to earlier in the year.
And so to 2021…
Given everything we have faced during 2020, it is impossible not to look forward to 2021 with a significant degree of optimism.
Recent vaccine news has been very positive, and at the time of writing a vaccination programme has commenced with our most vulnerable fellow citizens starting to be vaccinated.
New working practices have been established, with the daily commute likely to be a thing of the past and work life balance hopefully being enhanced as a result.
Firms generally have embraced technology – willingly or otherwise as a result of the transition to remote working – and will be starting to reap the benefit of this investment through enhanced operating efficiencies and improved sharing of data. This is certainly a theme that Property Searches Scotland will be looking to develop during 2021 through additional case management systems integrations and further enhancements to our online ordering platform.
To close, on behalf of everyone at Property Searches Scotland I would like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and best wishes for a happy, safe and healthy new year. Due to continuing travel restrictions we are unfortunately not going to be able to visit customers with our customary Christmas cheer this year, however we have made a generous contribution to the Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice on behalf of all staff and customers of the business.