The UK letting market entered into February feeling the initial effects of COVID-19, as activity in new listings labelled ‘to let’ declined 19.3 per cent, according to a lettings report by Agency Express.
Having spiked in January, the large drop was no surprise, given that activity was distorted somewhat in recent months. Even so, on a year-on-year basis, a gradual downtrend was noted. Across 12 regions surveyed, all registered falls in new listings to let, while only three saw an increase of listings let already.
The data comes as one of the first signs of a noticeable slowdown in the property sector, as sentiment started to be affected by the growing coronavirus pandemic.
Yorkshire sees sharpest falls in ‘to let’
Properties listed to let declined sharply in Yorkshire & Humberside, by as much as 17.7 per cent. In comparison, Scotland saw activity in this market fall 9.1 per cent. However, as indicated, properties already being let showed more upbeat activity.
The number of properties let in the South West held steady, while London saw a decline of just 6.9 per cent.
Stephen Watson, managing director of Agency Express, commented: “This Property Activity Index historically shows us a slowdown in activity throughout February. However, this month’s figures have shown declines to be greater than those recorded 12 months previous.
“As we finish collating the data for March, we would expect the figures to pick up again, but in the light of the turbulent times, we are expecting lower activity than usual.”
Coronavirus cases continue to rise
Over the weekend, the number of COVID-19 cases continued to rise in the UK – the latest estimate puts it at 5,837. Reports emerged of members of the public continuing to visit parks and markets during the weekend, despite the Government urging people to socially distance.
Emergency legislation may have to be passed and enacted in order to establish a firm lockdown, in order to prevent excessive numbers of people congregating unnecessarily. This would place the UK more in-line with European neighbours such as France and Italy.
Extensive trials will be undertaken at Porton Down, a UK-based science park, with the aim of producing an effective vaccine against COVID-19 in the coming days.