Property websites saw a surge in people looking for new homes over Christmas this year, with online searches on Boxing Day as much as doubling compared to 2019.
Property portal Rightmove had its busiest ever Boxing Day for visits, which jumped 54 per cent compared to the same day in 2019.
Visits from 1 December to 28 December were also 57 per cent higher than they were for the same period last year.
More prospective home buyers have browsed online over the Christmas period in 2020 than ever before, according to property portals.
Property portal Zoopla also had its biggest ‘Boxing Day bounce’ ever as traffic on its website soared by 70.5 per cent compared to pre-Christmas levels, while estate agents reported traffic increases of up to 130 per cent compared to Boxing Day 2019.
The Boxing Day bounce is an annual phenomenon as those hoping to move home in the new year turn to the property portals after the dust has settled on Christmas Day.
Property experts speculate that Christmas entertaining can highlight peoples’ gripes with their existing homes. This year, the extra aggravation of Covid restrictions meant that more people than ever started their property search the day after a Christmas spent indoors.
Zoopla’s website traffic was nearly 10 percentage points more than the 61 per cent increase it saw on Boxing Day 2019. In December as a whole, the portal recorded a 33 per cent increase in demand for property compared to December 2019.
Tom Parker, Zoopla’s consumer spokesperson, said that while Christmas often motivated people to move, the extraordinary pandemic circumstances had given them an extra incentive.
In particular, he said buyers were keen to complete before the government’s stamp duty holiday – which was designed to give the housing market a shot in the arm following the first national lockdown – expires on 31 March.
‘The Boxing Day bounce is not a one-off phenomenon; instead, it marks the start of the New Year uptick in traffic,’ he said.
‘This is set to intensify in January given the now imminent end to the stamp duty holiday, which is set to bring more hungry buyers into the market, keen to find and complete on their dream home before the stamp duty deadline expires.’
Zoopla’s monthly completions estimate has predicted the strongest December since 2006, with 140,000 transactions expected to complete before the end of the month.
Rightmove also said it expected visits to its website to grow further over the next week, as January was traditionally its busiest month. 26 and 28 December, visits have jumped by 18 per cent.
Families with time on their hands took to the internet to research potential new properties
Some buyers were so keen that they could not even wait until Boxing Day.
Estate agent Dexters reported that 2,859 people visited its website on Christmas Day, which was a 70 per cent increase compared to last year.
Traffic climbed further on Boxing Day, when 4,661 people browsed the site, marking a 128 per cent rise on 2019, and again on 27 December when 5,654 people visited, a 131 per cent uptick.
Richard Page, marketing director at Dexters, put the increase down to a combination of the end of the stamp duty holiday; news of a Brexit deal boosting consumer confidence; and people being stuck indoors with little else to do due to Covid restrictions.
‘This Christmas fell over Friday and a long weekend, and combined with the COVID-19 restrictions and travel bans, it is very clear from our website traffic that this Christmas there was a huge upturn compared to 2019 with visitors coming to our website to view properties,’ he said.
House prices have risen in many areas this year thanks to increasing demand among movers
‘The stamp duty holiday ends on 31 March 2021, and the visitor traffic indicates that buyers are keen over the Christmas holidays to continue to hunt for property whilst they remain indoors and not at work.
‘The positive news on the Brexit negotiations will also assist in renewing optimism. With careful protocols in place, we anticipate that post-Christmas we will see an upturn in people asking to view properties and subsequently make offers.’
Estate agent Savills also said that searches on its website in the days following Christmas Day had been 80 per cent higher this year than the same period in 2019.
‘The festive break is often when there’s more time to discuss future plans and onward moves, particularly so this year where people are staying at home,’ said Andrew Perratt, head of country residential sales.
Zoopla has predicted the strongest December since 2006, with 140,000 sales set to complete
He said one of the reasons for the uptick in activity was that people had re-evaluated what they wanted from their homes during the pandemic, including seeking more secluded locations.
In 2020 as a whole, Perratt said searches for homes in the Cotswolds and Cornwall had risen 130% and 160% respectively, compared to 2019.
While online searches have undoubtedly shot up, some buyers have taken it even further and made enquiries with agents about properties they are interested in.
Marc Schneidermann, director at North London specialist estate agent Arlington Residential, said he had seen a 15 per cent increase in email enquiries regarding homes for sale since Boxing Day.
‘Very little overseas travel and prospective buyers and tenants are unlikely to be working this week, so will be at home with time on their hands to review their property plans for next year and peruse websites for a suitable home,’ he said.
He said he had seen an even bigger increase of 25 per cent in email enquiries regarding rental properties, as renters took the opportunity to get more for their money thanks to falling rental values.
In addition, some people seeking new build homes went direct to property developers’ websites.
Luxury property developer London Square, which has properties across Greater London and Surrey, told This is Money that it saw a 117 per cent increase in visits on Boxing Day compared to the same time last year – 28 per cent of whom had not visited its website before.
House prices have risen to a record £245,000 in the year to October amid rising demand, according to the Office for National Statistics.
However, it is predicted that the market could become more subdued next year due to factors such as the tapering off of government wage support schemes and the end of the stamp duty holiday.
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