Online mortgage application enquiries increased by 75% in the week leading up to today’s reopening of the housing market, according to the Bank of Scotland.
From today, estate agents can allow house hunters to view properties in person for the first time since 24 March, and surveyors can visit properties for valuations and assessments.
BoS said new lending appointments were also up 470% last week on the previous seven days and that majority of enquiries were from first-time buyers.
The lender’s mortgages director Graham Blair said: “With the housing market slowing in the last few months, it has left many people at a loose end, whether that involved delaying plans to buy, extending rental agreements, or having to move in with relatives or friends.
“As Scottish estate agents look to reopen their doors, we are seeing an increase in mortgage applications and new lending appointments as more people want to get moving. Our branch-based advisers are also there to help people take the next step, but there’s plenty that people can do to get the ball rolling in the meantime.”
Over the last three months, estate agents in Scotland have carried out thousands of viewings through virtual tours but sales have been scarce.
The market reopened in England on 5 June, which has given estate agents the chance to see how quickly sales might pick up and how tricky it will be to accommodate Covid distancing and hygiene rules.
Cameron Ewer, head of Savills Residential in Scotland said: “It is important to highlight that sales activity hasn’t stood still during lockdown. Deals have been agreed, viewings and valuations have continued remotely and there has been overwhelming desire to get on with things.
“Since lockdown measures were eased in England a couple of weeks ago, Savills viewings have increased by 28% and enquiries by 58% compared with the same period last year. Prior to the pandemic, Scotland had seen record market activity and the market here is set to reopen with a similar bang this week, with pent-up demand already outstripping supply.”
Ewer said sales in Scotland had remained resilient through the uncertainty of the independence referendum and Brexit and that he expects it to ride out coronavirus.
He added: “The level of enquiries we have received during lockdown suggests this has not changed, with demand levels boosted by a surge in interest from London. Interestingly we have seen a 71% rise in the number of London buyers viewing our properties located in Scotland in May, compared to the start of the year. Larger homes with home-working options, room for extended family, and with gardens and access to the green space are proving to be particularly sought after.
“Easing the restrictions in Scotland has come slightly later here and we have been able to learn from Savills colleagues based south of the border about the most effective measures we can put in place in order to deliver best service to our clients here.
“The cautious nature of Scottish Government’s route map to ease Covid-19 lockdown, which began on 28th May, meant that online market appraisals and virtual viewings remained the default position during Phase One.
“These have both proved to be very effective means of progressing sales throughout lockdown. As we move to Phase Two, they will continue to be important features of our housing market, especially when clients are at the early stages of their property search, or would require to travel significant distances to view a property, or indeed are shielding.”
For many on the new build sector, business has held up well despite the lockdown. Living by Robertson sold out its first development of 120 apartments at Quayside, Ferry Village, near Braehead through remote marketing.
CALA Homes will welcome potential buyers to its sales suites across Scotland by appointment only, from today.
Philip Hogg, sales director with CALA Homes (East), said: “We are looking forward to welcoming customers back to our sales offices and helping them in their search for their dream home.
“The safety of our customers, our team and the wider community is absolutely paramount, and we’ve put in place a number of new health and safety measures to ensure their wellbeing, which all of our teams have been extensively briefed on.
“We’ve increased the frequency of cleaning in our sales suites and showhomes and will leave time between each appointment for this to take place. There’ll also be some changes throughout the experience, such as protective screens and hand sanitiser stations, and new signage to help customers navigate the sales areas safely.
“While our sales teams won’t be able to accompany customers around showhomes, customers will be given plenty of time to explore these properties on their own, and our advisors will be on hand before and after to answer any questions.”