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House sales are predicted to fall by 38% this year to 734,000 transactions compared to 2019, according to global property consultancy Knight Frank.

This is based on the assumption that the current lockdown will remain in place through April and May, with a gradual lifting through June.

Knight Frank also forecasts mainstream UK house prices will fall by 3% in 2020, with prices in prime central London remaining unchanged following a 25% repricing since 2014.

The firm expects prices to recover sharply in 2021 – citing an 8% growth for prime central London prices for next year.

Liam Bailey, global head of research at Knight Frank, commented: “The underlying economic forecast we have adopted points to a contraction of GDP of 4% in 2020 and growth of 4.5% in 2021. The actual outturn will be determined by the timeframe imposed by the lockdown.

“The housing market was in a strong position in January and February. A sharp uptick in sales and price growth was seen across the UK, with even the prime central London market seeing a reversal of a five-year long price decline.

“While we expect a revival in activity to continue, with volumes next year expected to be 18% above the level seen in 2019, this expansion in sales in 2021 will not fully offset the losses seen this year. Meaning that of the nearly 526,000 sales we expect to be “lost” due to lockdown this year, less than half will be carried into 2021.

“For the government to see a full recovery of the market, with all of these “lost” sales carried forward, there will be a need for substantial incentives to ease market liquidity – including a reduction in stamp duty.”

Lettings markets

In the lettings market, considering the net impact of a phased return to more normal levels of activity, Knight Frank believes that the number of tenancies agreed in the prime markets across London and the Home Counties in 2020 will be around 25% below the five-year average.

Off the back of rental values in prime central London growing by 1.2%, and in prime outer London by 1.1%, in the year to March 2020; the firm’s view is that rental values in prime central and outer London will remain flat over the course of 2020, with some upwards pressure returning the second half the year.

Bailey continued: “Once the current crisis passes and activity begins to resume, we have to expect weaker economic activity in the first half of 2020, the dislocation in the jobs market and weakened consumer sentiment will impact on prices, however the relatively finite timespan of the crisis means declines will be limited.

Agricultural land

Looking to the agricultural markets, based on the assumption that the farmland market will be back in business by the summer, Knight Frank is predicting land prices to fall during 2020 by 2%. This movement will take the average price of bare agricultural land to around £6,800.

Bailey added: “It is worth noting that Covid-19 is unlikely to be the key driver behind the agricultural land market over the next few years. The impact of Brexit in terms of the trade deal struck with the EU – delayed or not – will play a key role, as will the details of the government’s new environmental payment schemes.

“Surprisingly, the current crisis could indirectly support the land market if investors shift towards more tangible assets and greater emphasis is placed on improving food security and localising food chains.”

By Joanne Atkin

Source: Mortgage Finance Gazette

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