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. The first two months of the year saw the strongest performing period at our Rye office for 4 years in terms of viewing activity, offers received and sales agreed. The pent up demand of the last three years was starting to be released but in the space of just a few weeks, we now find ourselves in extraordinary circumstances. The property market does most definitely have a pulse but it is very difficult to do what we do at the moment. It is a very challenging time but there are still sales occurring, people are still moving and the online viewing figures at Rightmove and on our website have sky rocketed in recent days. Most people are confined to home and we have their attention – they are literally a captive audience. It seems to me that there are two choices. You can either sit around, absorb all the doom and gloom that the news channels and print media throw at you as the death toll mounts day by day or, you can do what many people seem to be doing and make the most of the situation. We have been given back temporarily the luxury of time and the autonomy over that time. Time for individuals to improve themselves in so many different ways through physical activity, webinars, podcasts, reading, learning a language and to release their creativity. Time also to think about what they want out of their lives and where to lead those lives. Time together to plan their future. Right now, London does not hold the same appeal for many residents. The lockdown is far more extreme in the capital than we are accustomed to here and more people have decided they want to move away to the rural areas. Yes, physical viewings of houses are for the moment on hold but future planning most certainly is not. Further down in the newsletter you will see a number of potential buyers who have engaged with us in the last three days alone. It may not seem that many but these are individuals who have taken the time and seen the benefit of making contact rather than just browsing online. They are motivated and remain focused on buying a house this year. You will also see that a sale has been agreed for a property in Rye this very day. Small crumbs from the table you may think but these are demonstrable signs of real activity at a time when the country is actually in lockdown. As the restrictions are gradually relaxed over the coming weeks and viewings are permitted, we will see activity levels pick up sharply as all those people currently restricted to looking online come out again but in the meantime, please do not think that because nobody is coming to see your house at the moment that nobody is viewing your house. They are online and in big numbers. It is, therefore, a time for holding your nerve and like the Pedi tribesmen who prepare for the rains during the drought, use this time to make your house and garden look as good as it possibly can. We will revisit and take new exterior images as soon as we reasonably can to keep it looking fresh in the market and we will talk to you about ‘virtual viewings’ with 3d floorplans and interactive walk through videos to generate more buyer engagement with your property. We will also send you a Property Information Questionnaire to complete. It is compliant with the Law Society requirements and so you will not have to duplicate the information with your solicitor but it will enable you to save time later and get ahead now.

During the shutdown, our office doors are not open to the general public but we are very much open for business. Our phone lines are open to those who would like to call and discuss their plans and our website is available for information, news and ideas. In these uncertain times we are sure of three things: i) grit and focus will see Phillips and Stubbs strive tirelessly to deliver a result for you, ii) we know how strong, supportive, and resilient our community is, and iii) we are as confident about the property market now, as we were before we ever heard of COVID-19. Everyone needs somewhere to live, and our area is still the most wonderful place to reside, work and play.

Thank you for your continued support. Stay safe. Martyn Stubbs