Unlocking Property Investment in 2021 – An Optimistic Outlook

In spite of the turbulence of 2020, the real estate market has remained strong. With any luck, it will continue to overcome the new challenges posed by 2021.

Paresh Raja, founder and CEO of Market Financial Solutions, offers Finance Monthly his predictions for the UK property market in the new year.

2020 has been, by far, one of the most impactful years of the last couple decades. COVID-19 has had a sizeable impact on the world economy, national governments, and health systems around the globe. No industry, nation, or continent has been exempt from the virus’s economic and epidemiological affects, and we are all now beginning to understand the long-lasting changes that have been brought about by the pandemic.

Despite all of these challenges, it is important not to let these developments overlook the successes of 2020. While some industries have struggled, other sectors like property have been able to quickly recover. In fact, one could argue the real estate market is the strongest it has been since the EU referendum in June 2016.

In my mind, the positive performance of bricks and mortar will continue in 2021. As such, now is an ideal time to take a step back and consider just how investors and prospective buyers can take advantage of property investment over the coming 12 months.

A standout performer of 2020

Of all the positive developments witnessed in the UK this year, the ability of the real estate market to sustain a consistent rise in transaction numbers and house prices should be applauded. However, it was necessary for the market to also recover from the initial disruption caused by the first lockdown.

Obviously, property professionals were concerned during this initial stage of the pandemic; with the UK government actively dissuading people from moving home. Lenders retreated from the market, and this resulted in buyers turning to specialist finance providers to complete on sales and prevent existing transactions from collapsing.

Of all the positive developments witnessed in the UK this year, the ability of the real estate market to sustain a consistent rise in transaction numbers and house prices should be applauded.

In May, the government announced that people could once again move home, and that those who worked in the property sector could go back to facilitating transactions. However, in a bid to further incentivise buyers and sellers back to the market, in July the government offered the real estate sector another helping hand.

8 July saw the introduction and implementation of the stamp duty land tax (SDLT) holiday. This means that buyers could now save up to £15,000 when purchasing a new property in England or Northern Ireland. Those who were skittish about completing a property transaction during a pandemic were incentivised back to the market, resulting in a new wave of transactional activity which has been maintained up until today.

Transaction numbers began to grow, and house price indexes recorded a rise in the value of British property for the first time since the 2016 EU referendum. Nationwide, Halifax and Rightmove recorded house price growth between January and November 2020 of +6.5%, +7.6% and +5.5%, respectively.

However, although buyers were keen to take advantage of the SDLT holiday, another obstacle stood in the way of many. In a bid to minimise risk exposure, mainstream lenders are still hesitant when it comes to lending. Some have tightened their lending criteria; others have taken financial products off the shelves, and it is being reported that the time it is taking to deploy loans is increasing.

There is clear buyer appetite for property, and I believe this will be the case so long as the SDLT holiday remains in play. For this reason, property investors and brokers must familiarise themselves with all their finance options, looking beyond mainstream lenders and mortgage providers.

The rise of specialist finance

A survey from September commissioned by Market Financial Solutions found that 52% of the homeowners were keen to take advantage of the SDLT holiday but were put off by the increased likelihood of being denied the necessary financing.

Prospective buyers whose transactions were at risk of collapsing from a delay in the deployment of their mortgage have, in turn, been looking to alternative lenders. These lenders typically have access to in-house credit lines and can tailor loans to meet the unique circumstances of each buyer. As a result, specialist finance products such as bridging loans can be deployed within a matter of days.

As we enter into 2021, I can only imagine that this trend will continue. The scheduled end of the SDLT holiday on 31 March, combined with the implementation of an overseas-buyer 2% SDLT surcharge on 1 April, means there is likely to be a rush from buyers looking to complete on transactions before these dates.

From reviewing their performance this year, there is a risk that mainstream lenders will struggle to ensure that financing is deployed in time to finalise transactions before these two deadlines. As such, there is a growing case for prospective buyers to seek out mortgage alternatives, such as fast loan solutions.

An optimistic outlook for 2021

Looking to the coming 12 months, it is clear that property investment will play a defining role supporting the post-pandemic recovery of the UK economy. The SDLT holiday has been a success, and there is clear buyer appetite for bricks and mortar. For this reason, it makes sense for buyers and brokers to also familiarise themselves with alternative loan options. Doing so will ensure they can confidently complete on transactions without delay.

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