Swings and Roundabouts

No, I’m not referencing the Barbican’s children’s play areas in the two gardens – one of which I can view out of my apartment windows – but the effects of the coronavirus on Barbican property prices.  Nationally, according to the data from those that collate it, property prices are rising across the country and reaching record levels.  But before Barbican flat owners start any premature celebrations, the increase in people now working from home is also meaning that there is a possibly accelerating trend towards moving out of central London to more leafy suburbia, or beyond.  This could well be having an impact on property prices here as business people may no longer feel the need to live so close to their places of work, although most of our local Estate Agents have been seeing good business regardless.

The trend will also have benefits for employers which they may not have recognised previously.  Enforced home working will have demonstrated that it may not be necessary for all employees to spend five days a week in centralised offices – many of their tasks can equally easily be performed remotely which may mean reduced office size and overheads which potentially means reduced costs, which is good for the bottom line.  And for the employee a reduction in commuting time and cost may make the remote working option increasingly welcome as will the opportunity to spend more time at home with the family.

Lettings business also seems to be a little muted compared with pre-coronavirus days and agents are finding that they may need to reduce rents a little to maintain business.  Nevertheless, rental interest in Barbican properties does seem to be remaining positive because of the estate’s excellent location and transport links.  Interestingly one agent reports that there seems to be a resurrection of interest in furnished properties – previously the trend had been moving towards unfurnished ones.

Those estate agents who specialise in selling and/or letting Barbican apartments are already noticing the above trends.  However any downturn in business has perhaps been mitigated so far by the Chancellor’s stamp duty reductions which will have cut the cost of purchase of virtually all Barbican apartments by around £15,000, given that even many studio apartments now sell for around £500,000.  The agents do seem to be reporting reasonable numbers of transactions, so all is far from doom and gloom for Barbican property owners.

We hope that the prospects of an effective vaccine becoming available may lead to a degree of normalisation, but it’s early days yet.  We somehow feel that, even if the virus is defeated, the new normal will differ in many respects from past living and commuting patterns, although the Barbican’s great location and transport links, hopefully soon to further benefit from the Elizabeth Line (Crossrail), will maintain the Estate as a great London location for all current and prospective residents.  London remains one of the world’s most attractive cities for living and working and we should, in the Barbican, continue to benefit therefrom.

LOCAL ESTATE AGENTS’ COMMENTS

SALES

Tina Evans at Frank Harris: Well we are just at the start of a four week lockdown but estate agents are permitted to work so we will of course be here for viewings and appraisals.  Since our last update in the summer both August and particularly September were incredibly busy, our stock is dwindling but we do continue to receive requests for viewings particularly for two bedroom flats.  Our successes of the summer have been numerous including the sale of a large top floor three bedroom flat in Mountjoy House and a large three bedroom corner flat in Frobisher Crescent.  My opinion on the sales market for the next six months? If you are considering trading up to a larger flat now is the time to do it, I believe we will continue to sell Barbican flats but they need to be presented well. Dressing your property to sell in this challenging market is the best advice I can give.  www.frankharris.co.uk

Glen Cook at Hamilton Brooks:  We have now just entered the second COVID lock down period so in terms of the market picking up I am going to have to delay any real comment apart from my own personal views.  One thing that’s different is that during the lock down (2) we are OPEN this time for viewings and valuations which is great news and we are actually seeing offers coming in. My view is that anyone looking now is a serious buyer, why waste time, effort, travel, risk, if you are not serious, we agreed 3 sales last week, so despite lock down ( 2) flats are selling – slowly but surely.  Next year is a tricky call about what the market will do, again I have my own personal views, but until we see if lock down (2) is extended or indeed a lock down (3) after Christmas happens, then it’s impossible to predict.  I do think that in the absence of lock down (3) after Christmas we could see a surge in demand, with overseas bankers/lawyers, IT, slowly returning to City desks and/or planning a return early in the New Year. If commuting is to reduce by 30/40% those could become buyers of flats.  We shall see.  www.hamiltonbrooks.co.uk

Nicola Lee at Nicola Lee Ltd.: We have completed on several properties this month, despite the City of London remaining quiet. We are receiving significantly more enquiries and viewing requests for two-bedroom properties, which may indicate that buyers are looking for extra room to accommodate remote working. In previous years we would have encouraged sellers to wait until spring to sell their property, but we now believe that new properties should be marketed over the Christmas period as people stay at home and plan for the year ahead. I must confess to having found writing this commentary difficult through another lockdown, as I do not think that this can truly convey the present. So I urge anybody with concerns or questions to contact me, or to pop into our office (socially distanced, and as allowed under lockdown). We wish you all a calm and happy Christmas and New Year.  www.nicolalee.co.uk

Marco Fugaccia at Hurford Salvi Carr: We will probably look back in years to come and realise how severe 2020 has been and how the residential sales market was put under immense pressure. Our working, social and family situations were side-tracked, and COVID-19 changed our lives. Although the Barbican and The City residential sale and letting markets are a unique bubble and generally quite resilient to change, the exodus of our working population, who we so rely on, has hindered values and demand, something perhaps not seen outside the Central London areas. Whilst ‘city workers’ have not been using their offices to continue their business, we have seen prices in both residential sales and lettings either soften or owners and landlords standing firm and waiting for the market to show signs of improvement. January, I believe, will bring renewed energy to both markets with many buyers taking advantage of the stamp duty saving which ends at the end of March and potential new tenants realising that Barbican and The City offers a superb opportunity to live in Central London.  Hurford Salvi Carr wish you all a joyful and peaceful festive season and we look forward to a cheerful New Year     www.hurford-salvi-carr.co.uj

Alex Childs at AW Childs: We continue to operate following government guidelines. If you are considering selling or letting your Barbican property please contact us to discuss. We would like to wish everyone well and stay safe. www.awchilds.co.uk

Nick Scott at Scott City: The City property market is still slow following the announcement of a further lockdown. Let’s hope the news of a vaccine is what we need to see a return to work for the many City employees who are at present working remotely from home. Although we are seeing a reluctance to commit to buy, stock levels are good generally for the Barbican and with the reduction we have seen in sales values now could be a good time to buy. Let’s hope for some good news soon and a return to some form of normality. Time will tell.  www.scottcity.co.uk

LETTINGS

Glen Cook:  Most of the turmoil caused by lockdown (1) has settled, lockdown (2) does not seem as disruptive, demand is steady. I do think in the absence of lockdown (3) after Christmas we could see a surge in demand, with overseas bankers/lawyers, IT, slowly returning to City desks and or planning a return early in the New Year.

Lindsay Lee at Nicola Lee Ltd: The rental market picked up later than usual as professionals and students had not returned to the City as anticipated.  Landlords have accepted lower rent in order to keep the current tenant or encourage new tenants as they are keen to have the property let. We had a considerable amount of enquiries on a smaller property in the Golden Lane Estate which was immaculately presented, and it let very quickly, while not so well-presented flats have taken longer to let. Whilst unfurnished properties were once popular, more tenants now seem to prefer furnished. It is encouraging to see that landlords are becoming more realistic about prices and timing, and we appreciate all the landlords with whom we have the pleasure of working.

Joe Davison at Scott City: During these COVID times, the rental market has been tough with many people putting moving plans on hold. Having said that, properties in the Barbican are still doing well and remain in constant demand. The prices we are achieving have come down slightly, but if we can get these slight reductions we are still finding plenty of people enquiring and offering.