22 Dec 2020
With new mortgage deals available, finding a new home could be the best new year resolution you make, writes Greig Brown
This year will certainly be one we won’t forget in a hurry, and that applies to the housing and mortgage markets as much as anything else.
Having been in and around financial services, and in particular the mortgage sector for almost 20 years it’s tough to remember any one period which has seen so many contrasting elements, and that includes the global financial crisis which began in 2008, the effects of which were still being felt several years later.
A year that began in fine fettle, which despite the ongoing trials and tribulations of Brexit, saw healthy levels of activity in the housing market and optimism for the normally busy Spring months, was stopped in its tracks with the pandemic and the subsequent national lockdown.
All parts of the economy pretty much shut down, and that included the residential property sector.
Not only did the restrictions mean that buyers could no longer visit properties to view them as they would normally do before making any commitment, but a fair bit of the mortgage market also shrunk, not least in the very popular 90% and 95% markets – an understandable move by lenders given the unknown economic impact of the health crisis.
In addition, with millions of people being furloughed, public confidence was now probably at its lowest ebb for a decade. Who would want to buy a property in these circumstances? Indeed, why would put your property on the market with few buyers?
In that type of environment it would have been very difficult to predict what was to follow when the lockdown ended.
The summer months brought a release of pent up demand and level of activity which many property experts had never experienced.
Buyers wanted to buy, sellers wanted to sell. The Scottish Government also helped provide a catalyst and both the temporary LBTT changes alongside the First Home Fund definitely helped oil the wheels.
Furthermore, with restrictions still in place, estate agents needed to become more innovative, none more so than Aberdein Considine where new technology was introduced to help buyers to view homes in detail without having to visit the property. The firm’s cameras can scan every inch of a room in just a few seconds, creating a 3D simulation that viewers can walk through using a phone, tablet or computer. In fact, almost 170,000 virtual tours have already been taken.
As we moved towards autumn and winter the peak of activity, not unexpectedly, began levelling off and as the good news around a Covid vaccine gave us renewed hope, the news now turned to the issue of Brexit – yes, that again.
Once more there is another matter to dent what is a fragile level of confidence but that aside, there are some reasons for optimism.
The vaccine should, once the roll out begins in full, help us to see something resembling normal life again, especially when it comes to the economy, and some mortgage lenders have begun to acknowledge this.
In the last few weeks we have seen the tentative return of 90% mortgage deals, with both Halifax and Accord mortgages beginning to dip their toes in the water once more, albeit in a limited manner.
As we move through 2021, we should also see applications for the First Home Fund open up again, and the LBTT exemptions remain available until March 2021.
For many of us, the festive season will not be as busy as normal, with fewer of us going out or visiting loved ones. This does mean that we will be left with more time on our hands and there is only so much Christmas telly you can watch.
One option, especially if you have been thinking about buying or moving home, could be to begin your preparations for 2021 by looking for that dream property.
You might also need a mortgage, and whilst we don’t know how 2021 will play out, or if Brexit will have any impact on interest rates, there are still over 15,000 mortgage deals around, and you could do worse than give your local mortgage broker a call.
Finding a new home could be the best resolution you make, stick to it and 2021 could be a year to remember – for the right reasons!