Salford’s estate and letting agents have been discussing the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on their profession, from the complicated to the unexpected.
Fiona Beirne, from Salford-based estate agents Urban Bases, has said that she has been “surprised” at the “massive increase” in those wanting to buy and let property over the past year.
Ms Beirne, who has worked for the company for over 15 years, said: “I was surprised at events. I thought it would have an adverse effect on the market, yet it had the opposite effect.
“I did not expect us to see an increase in yields.”
2020 saw an unexpected increase in the price of property across the country, despite the pandemic.
According to Rightmove, this affected Eccles in particular, where house prices increased by 16 per cent, compared with the national average of 6.6 per cent. This led to the online property portal naming the area their ‘price hotspot’ in December of last year.
Emily Utratny, Lettings Agent at Peter Anthony estate agents, said: “It’s been an odd year really. It’s an up and down business anyway with estate agents, one month you can be the busiest you’ve ever been and then another it might be a little quieter.
“Since the reopening of the housing market we have been extremely busy on both sales and lettings, and we have found that across our other offices: Levenshulme, Stockport and Liverpool, so I’m assuming other agents are experiencing the same.”
Both agents put the increases in sales down to people taking advantage of the government’s decision to implement a “Stamp Duty holiday” in July 2020.
What is the Stamp Duty holiday?
Stamp Duty is a tax usually paid as a percentage of the purchase price on a property over £125,000.
In July 2020, the government relaxed the tax, increasing the threshold to £500,000. This has potentially saved buyers a substantial amount of money and has encouraged people to move to a new house after the first lockdown.
With the holiday set to end on March 31, there has been rumours that the government will announce an extension during next week’s Spring Budget.
Ms Beirne said it will be “interesting to see” what happens to sales and to the property market when the holiday ends.
She added: “I think we shall see a slow down.”
After opening branches in Worsley, Swinton and Leigh, Urban Bases decided to focus mainly on lettings.
They closed the branches after the first market collapse in 2008 and made the decision to go fully digital in 2016.
Prominent from viewing their website is that Urban Bases pride themselves on being “normal”.
However, the changes that those working in the field have had to contend with in recent months have meant that the profession has become the opposite of “normality”.
Safety during property viewings is key. “We have a duty of care when visiting someone’s home and also care not to spread the virus,” Ms Beirne said.
Just some of the changes that Salford’s estate agents have had to implement are detailed below:
Speaking about working during the pandemic, Miss Utratny said: “I work more on lettings side, and at the end of the day people need to move house for a number of reasons so that will always continue.
[We are still operating as usual but our offices are closed to the public. We can offer 360° virtual tours and also virtual valuations too. Please call us on 0161 257 2441 if you would like to discuss your options.] pic.twitter.com/PSe8hHKcbA
— Peter Anthony EA (@Peter_AnthonyEA) January 18, 2021
“January 2021 was a little quieter, I think everyone felt a lull after the Government’s announcement that we were to be in another lockdown, but towards the end of January up until now business here has picked its self-back up.”
Fiona Beirne added: “I always say, an estate agent is in effect quite like an anthropologist.”
“You see people at either great times in their lives, or really vulnerable times. You see a broad spectrum of human behaviour.”
The future and RHS Bridgewater
Looking to the future, both agents are optimistic about the opportunities that the new RHS Bridgewater will bring.
Fiona Beirne said: “I think that will increase different kinds of letting opportunities.”
She added that she thinks that the 156-acre RHS Garden will increase the amount of Air BnB’s, rentals and people buying second homes in Worsley and the surrounding areas.
“The RHS Bridgewater is an interesting one. It has a lot of potential and I do think this will bring more people into the area who don’t already live here, which would be positive for estate agents and other businesses,” Emily Utratny said.
“I do like what they say on their website about ‘bringing back to life the lost historic grounds at Worsley New Hall in Salford.’”
She added: “It’s always nice to see a bit of our history preserved.”
In December, the RHS development became embroiled in controversy over deer culling, which Miss Utratny discussed:
“There is a lot of trust to be rebuilt with the Salford local community after the news before Christmas.
“I think once that has been rebuilt it can be a very special and unique thing we have here in Salford.”