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Wednesday, 07 April 2021

“Being home-bound during the island’s lockdowns has caused some people to reflect on the space they call home”

The latest Guernsey property bulletin revealed a jump in Guernsey house prices, mirroring the trends in the UK and Jersey. Our Founder, CEO Simon Torode spoke to Connect editor Aaron Carpenter about the subject and revealed how house hunting has become more emotive since the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is their conversation:

The latest property figures showed the largest annual increase in average property prices in over a decade, which is a trend that has also been seen in Jersey and the UK. From speaking to prospective buyers in Guernsey, do you think being locked down has emphasised the need for people to feel comfortable and happy with where they live?

Absolutely. Being home-bound during the island’s lockdowns has caused some people to reflect on the space they call home and what they want from it. People’s relationships with their homes have changed and the pandemic has reinforced that home is a feeling as well as a building or set of rooms.

Do you think emotion is playing a bigger role now in people’s decision to move house than it was before the pandemic?

It’s totally understandable that people agonise over buying a house; it’s likely the biggest single purchase you’re ever going to make, so you want to get it right. Our Channel Island teams have more than 200 years’ experience in property, so we’ve seen all sorts of approaches to buying and selling – spreadsheets, points systems, pro and con lists; it’s safe to say we’ve seen it all. But so often it comes down to a gut feeling and an emotional response. Different markets require different trains of thought to succeed and those who are ‘over analytical’ tend to be missing out on opportunities to those who look at a purchase more emotively - often at a quicker pace.

Since the pandemic we’ve certainly observed buyers learning to becoming more emotive. Whereas previously a minor quibble – say, the third bedroom being a square metre smaller than they’d have liked – would be amplified to the point where they wouldn’t put an offer in, but now that sort of thing matters less if the property is somewhere the buyer can see themselves being happy.

On the selling side too emotions are having a greater influence. The pandemic has caused many people to seize the moment and do what makes them happy, so a major emotional barrier to getting your home valued and listing it for sale has, in many cases, been removed.

Is the 12% rise in transaction prices a genuine inflation in property prices - or does it reflect people focussing on higher quality properties in order to provide the space and living standards they want if home working becomes increasingly common in the future?

As part of our client experience we always try and understand the motivations behind our vendors’ and buyers’ decision-making process so we can best meet their needs. There is so much psychology involved. One of the features we’ve spoken about with clients most often over the past year is space.

Most people require more space – whether it’s a home office or a bigger garden – and that typically means you have to move up a price bracket. Demand has grown in the upper price brackets and increased demand normally means an increase in prices. So to an extent the price increase is a natural result of market forces, driven by shifting behaviour patterns.

But it’s important to maintain perspective; Guernsey is not alone in facing rising property prices. Jersey and the UK are experiencing the same phenomenon: Zoopla’s Housing Index shows that the UK housing market had its strongest start to the year since 2015, with buyer appetite to move home up 12.4% on this time last year.

Do you expect further pent-up demand from this year’s lockdown to lead to another surge of activity in the months ahead?

If the end of the first lockdown is anything to go by, then we’d anticipate 2021 showing equal promise and levels of activity or, if the available property stock increases, we could experience even greater levels of growth than we saw in 2020. Jersey has seen no signs of slowing as we facilitate incredibly fast-paced activity while Guernsey emerges from lockdown with every indication of doing the same.

This article first appeared in Connect magazine in a feature on Guernsey’s property market.

You can read the full feature online here.

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