A Balancing Act


THE Oxfordshire property market will inevitably experience a lull in activity compared to normal trading conditions due to COVID-19 – but prices should not crash, a local expert has predicted.

Gavin West, Managing Director of Summertown based WEST-The Property Consultancy, said the Oxfordshire market will demonstrate its resilience over time.

As the property market re-opens following the full lockdown, there has been a re-emergence of activity, albeit at  a modest pace.

Mr West believes Oxford’s unique market position in the UK, means that alongside the London ‘Super-Prime’ market it will show fortitude.

“Residential sales activity is a lot lower than prior to the ‘Lock Down’, for a mixture of reasons and I predict this will remain the case, as for many, health is naturally a prime concern,” said Mr West.

“However, the Oxford city/inner ring road market is quite unique in the UK and demand is significantly greater than supply.

“In the short to medium term we will see less transactions and over time we predict a small drop off in a prices achieved vs quoted guides n Oxford, but not the heavy reductions you see predicted in the seemingly negative national press.

“Instead there will likely be a small levelling off and static pricing behaiour. He believes people are currently taking stock and maintaining a watching brief, for confidence in the overall economy is going to be key to eventual progress.

“During a crisis most will want to hold assets that have strong fundamentals, as they will hold value and when we experience a bounce they will be the first to recover any lost value. This will be especially relevant in the city, central north Oxford and of course premium villages.”

While Mr West expects the volume of property sales to be lower in the short term, his agency has completed a number of sales this month in Oxford, Marcham, Letcombe Regis, Longworth and Sutton Courtenay.

“Currently the market is predominately clearing the jam of transactions that were put on hold during the lockdown,” said Mr West. “But we do expect a some tentative acitivy this summer and buyers who are looking are noticeably serious with less speculative activity. That said we have sold a number of beautiful houses over the past two months that were interestingly listed during this period, two of which were in the popular South Oxfordshire of Sutton Courtenay.”

WEST–The Property Consultancy is managing a gradual return of its team and exercising a cautious approach as to how it operates in this period, especially given client concerns over safety.

“We are for first viewings, using ‘virtual’ tours and 3D floor plans of properties. Physical viewing naturally demands a very high level of hygiene including PPE” said Mr West.

“It is a balancing act and I doubt we will see a full return to the old ways of working, even when a vaccine is developed. This period has given everyone time to reflect and I think a lot of businesses will maintain an approach to flexible working.

“For us this will likely fuse our ‘High Street’ offices with remote working. Technology means this is a sensible way to work in terms of time, cost and the beneficial effect on staff work/life balance.. Now more than ever working smart is vital.”

He added: “The safety and well-being of colleagues and clients comes first, and we have done extensive risk assessments and adapted to ensure that we operate as safely as possible.

“This is without doubt a challenging time and we are adjusting the business to survive and ensure we are properly prepared to manage through what is potentially ahead given that there is no reference point for Governments halting an economy ”

WEST–The Property Consultancy has a strong Lettings & Management Department which is ensuring that the business fortunately has consistent work flow during the reduction in sales activity.

“The Government grants and job retention schemes have also been incredibly supportive for the property industry,” said Mr West.

“The first quarter activity was very encouraging and having certainty reference ‘Brexit’ the market was buoyant. Now it is a case of being careful, but the property market will inevitably bounce back given low supply and historically cheap mortgage money.”