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Your essential property update

12 months into the Covid pandemic as lockdown finally promises to lift for good here's what you need to know about the property market right now

Whether you’re moving into Kent or within Kent, now (more than ever before) it pays to be one step ahead when it comes to buying and selling property.

So we asked Muddy property guru Fiona Penny – who founded Fiona Penny Bespoke Home Finders 13 years ago and knows both the property industry and this area of the country inside out – to update us on the property market right now.

1. Supply Versus Demand

Much has been written about the exodus out of London, with an estimated 73,950 homebuyers leaving the capital in 2020 in a four year high. And the number one destination of those moving out to the commuter belt? Sevenoaks in Kent was the most popular choice – with a 39 per cent increase in homebuyers moving from London to the Kent town in 2020.

Kent has always been popular for families, but never more so than now. Fiona says: ‘None of us have a crystal ball but we would expect to see a continuation of the significant disparity between supply and demand and lots of competition for the best houses. This is where the benefits of a home finder service can come in useful.’

2. Special concessions

‘There’s a full extended Stamp Duty holiday on properties worth up to £500,000 until the end June and then the relief reduced to the first £250,000 until the end September,’ explains Fiona. ‘This is definitely still an incentive for people to start a house search now and be able to complete in this window.’

Remember the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme that came to an end in 2016? According to Fiona, chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a new version, incentivising lenders to offer mortgages to people who only have small deposits.

‘It’s available to anyone buying a home worth up to £600,000 and the chancellor had a lengthy list of lenders who will be offering mortgages under this scheme from next month.’ In the words of Rishi Sunak: ‘We want to turn Generation Rent into Generation Buy.’

3. Do your school research

Never in our lifetime has the topic of education been more at the forefront of our minds than today. The strong offering that Kent has for state, grammar and independent schools is hard to beat.

‘Kent has an excellent range of prep schools, independent schools and grammar schools,’ agrees Fiona. ‘For grammar schools the catchment area is critical and you will pay a premium for good family homes that fall within them. Journeys to and from school should always be considered and we always advise our clients, and help them, to choose the right school for their children before we search for the perfect home.’

4. Hybrid working is here to stay

After Boris Johnson outlined plans to fully reopen the economy by this summer many of the UK’s largest employers have launched extensive reviews of working practices, in moves that could have far-reaching consequences for the way we work.

Fiona Penny says: ‘It’s expected that for many the working week will be changed permanently. With more opportunity for working from home breaking up the time spent on long commutes and in the office. Space and indoor / outdoor work space is premium.’

The Financial Times contacted more than 20 companies, and most said they anticipated introducing hybrid models of working in which staff split their time between the office and home in the long-term.

Fiona says: ”A home office has long been an important search criteria but lockdown has increased the need for potentially two adults to be working from home – whether part or full time – so additional work spaces are so important. In particular people want flexible spaces that can double up as quiet work spaces as and when needed. Linked to this is also the need for fast and reliable wi-fi as never before!’

What’s more people are willing to live a bit further away from a station and / or willing to accept a longer train commute itself, according to Fiona. ‘This widens the search area for property buyers,’ she continues. ‘Rural locations are increasingly popular, especially if buyers are only having to travel into work two or three days a week.’

5. Family comes first

The pandemic has helped a lot of people really drill down to what they want and to prioritise what is important in their lives. ‘Family and community has never been more important,’ says Fiona. ‘With the extra strain that Covid has put on the mental and physical health of the older and younger generations it’s expected we will see a move towards families wanting to move closer together.’

Flexible accommodation, annexes or the potential to create one from existing outbuildings are all becoming increasingly sought after. ‘Families want to be closer and spend more time together,’ Fiona explains. ‘From a practical point of view, combining purchasing power may also allow for a more substantial family home for everyone to benefit from,’ she adds.

Fiona Penny Bespoke Home Finders is a property finding service that can help you find your dream property in Kent and East SussexRead more here

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