A change in relationship
I believe it’s fair to say that our relationship with our homes have, at least for the majority of us, altered over the past 9 months. These changes seem to have caused many of us to re-examine the practicality of our homes within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also with a view ahead to when we are through the worst of it and some form of normality returns to our daily lives. This assessment seems to be supported by the turbo-charged activity witnessed within the housing market since Estate Agents were permitted to re-open premises and carry out appointments back in mid-May last year.
When we re-opened our own branches following 9 weeks of closure, we expected a reasonable amount of activity prompted by a backlog of demand, however we also suspected this might be mitigated a little by a cooling of the market as a usual consequence of any economic or political uncertainty. To say we were surprised by the level of demand and interest in moving home would be an understatement…but then we had not accounted for the Chancellor’s announcement that he would put in place a stamp duty holiday until 31st March this year. There is no doubt this move fuelled an incredible level of activity which in turn led to the conveyancing and mortgage lending systems being subject to unparalleled pressure. However, it’s my belief the stamp duty holiday would not have been enough of an incentive to move for the sake of it, what it seems to have done is further exacerbate any misgivings we had about where we live and brought that examination to a head more purposefully…or to put it another way, it brought people’s decisions forward.
A look at why
So why did (and still do) so many people want to move home during a global pandemic?
There are of course the different practicalities (which I’ll come to shortly) magnified by what we are currently living through, but I also sense there has been a shift in how many of us ‘feel’ about our homes which has contributed to an increase in demand.
It is often said that ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ and a significant number of us have been forced to become more familiar with the building in which we live, and with that its limitations. I think some have understandably come to associate their four walls and roof with the challenges, and in some cases the heartbreak of the current situation. Where our homes have traditionally been, and still are in many cases, a safe haven, to others they have come to symbolise the unprecedented restrictions on our personal liberty and freedom of movement.
In a way connected to this sense of captivity is the blurring of the lines between our domestic space and workplace…largely because the two have become one and the same. Those of us who have very little experience of working from home might, in a different time, have relished the opportunity to be based from home, yet many of those rose-tinted expectations have been well and truly dashed by the realities, especially when you throw in the need to provide childcare and home-schooling at the same time. Our homes have become our workplaces, our schools, our restaurants and pubs (with a very limited clientele of course) and that’s a lot of pressure to put on any building…and certainly on the way we might feel about that building.
Practical issues highlighted might include not having enough space to work from home, or an inadequate home office set-up, an insufficient broadband connection, wires, cables and extention leads trailing everywhere, not enough outside space, not enough on street parking…and I could go on.
I write, to a certain extent, from personal experience as my family and I moved last year from a home we had been happy in for almost 16 years…suddenly not fit for its new and unexpected multiple purpose. The evidence suggests we are just one of many in this regard, and in this early stage of 2021 I do not see many signs of this sentiment slowing too much any time soon. It remains to be seen what impact the end of the stamp duty holiday brings (if indeed it’s not extended by the government), but for as long as these new relationships with our homes are necessary we can see the demand to move continuing.
By Nick Rees
Director, Jackson Grundy