The rental market effectively disintegrated in the early days of lockdown before showing signs of a rebound which are still active now.
That’s the assessment of PropTech firm Goodlord which has a regular market tracker reporting on the lettings sector.
Between March 17, roughly when initial lockdown measures came into effect, and April 14 the number of new tenancy applications plummeted by 72 per cent, reducing market activity by three-quarters compared to the same period in 2019.
Completed lets dropped by 88 per cent over the same period.
However since April 14 demand for rental properties has gradually crept up. Whilst still operating much below 2019 levels, this rebound offers letting agents hope that the worst is now behind them, Goodlord says.
Between April 12 (when market activity bottomed out in line with the Easter Bank holiday weekend) and May 7 (prior to the most recent bank holiday), new applications rose by 45 per cent and completed tenancies by 22 per cent.
During the seven days leading up to the May VE Day Anniversary Bank Holiday on Friday of last week, both new lets and completed lets steadily increased as pent up demand from tenants began to be released.
Whilst still operating well below 2019 levels, the rise demonstrates ongoing demand from tenants for new properties.
Temporary changes to right to rent checks, introduced at the end of March, have made it possible for tenancies to be completed without the need for any in-person contact between agents and tenants.
Goodlord’s data indicates that some letting agents are using these new measures to safely process tenancies that cannot be postponed.
“The last month has been intensely difficult for letting agents. The steep decline we saw in new and completed tenancy applications was unprecedented in modern history. However, there are now some glimmers of hope” according to Goodlord’s chief operating officer Tom Mundy.
“The numbers are showing early signs of levelling out. If this proves true, retaining this subsistence level of demand will prove vital to agents when it comes to surviving the duration of social distancing restrictions, as will their ability to pivot to a fully remote offering” he continues.
“If they are able to weather a few more weeks, we are predicting a much more significant rebound for the market once restrictions on moving house are lifted. Many moves will be on hold right now, meaning demand is building up each week with some already trickly through, as we can see.
“As with any downturn, sales will be hit harder than lettings, as people delay getting their foot onto the property ladder and remain renting instead. For the agents that can go the distance, there will be a chance to claw back some of their losses once restrictions are lifted.”