Still here for you – despite challenging times
The Edinburgh Pro-active Property Group (EPPG) is a new association of some of the largest, most pro-active and innovative firms in the Edinburgh Solicitors Property Centre (‘ESPC’) specialising in the sale and purchase of residential property in East Central Scotland comprising of Warners, Neilsons, Deans and VMH.
Collectively, these firms processed sales worth £526.6 million in East Central Scotland in 2019.
In 2020, 25% of properties currently on the market with ESPC in Edinburgh and the Lothians are marketed by an EPPG firm.
With the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown at the property market, these big firms who are still operating have decided to work together to provide informative and relevant information on property market activity from firms which are remaining open remotely and providing a service to their clients.
Surprisingly, some firms have elected to effectively go into hibernation mode however we noted early on there was a groundswell of demand from clients for services and guidance on how they can keep things going whilst operating in a safe environment and following all required public health social distancing measures. Understandably, selling and buying a property can be a stressful process without any added external strain, and as usual we are here for our clients to ease any worries or concerns.
Our fingers are on the pulse of the property market from start to finish, not just from an estate agency point of view but importantly from a wider legal perspective too. We can also assist with Wills and Powers of Attorney. Unlike large multi-national estate agents or faceless conveyancing call centres we see property transactions from appraisal and valuation right through to settlement. The input of conveyancing Solicitors is vital during normal market conditions and is paramount in these challenging times, to help clients navigate the challenges of the current market.
We aim to provide the public with accurate and up to date information on what is happening in the local market from our perspective: the pro-active firms that are still here for you – despite challenging times.
Given there has been a lot of negative press, we as a collective thought it would be helpful for everyone to hear what has been happening since lockdown.
We have collectively collated our statistics on property market activity from Monday 23rd March 2020 (the start of social distancing and lockdown measures) to Monday 6th April 2020. Fortunately, due to the firms’ in EPPG’s fast-acting innovation and accessibility to clients remotely, there has been considerable activity.
The one thing to note right now is that under current necessary lockdown guidance, properties cannot be marketed, and transactions cannot settle unless in very exceptional circumstances. A core legal requirement of selling in Scotland is having a Home Report carried out by a surveyor and for marketing – photographs and floor plans carried out by photographers and currently these are unable to be carried out due lockdown restrictions.
We predict in the weeks to come we will see further headlines such as “property listings down 90% in Scotland” and this is understandable in the current lockdown climate however what the headlines do not report is what is happening in firms like ours behind the scenes.
We have lots of clients who were due or who are due to move home during this difficult time and we must adhere to Government Guidelines. We are working hard with our clients and others to progress matters where it is possible and safe. In terms of settling transactions, The Law Society of Scotland has noted “Public health must be at the forefront of all decisions during this difficult time and members should not put themselves, their staff, clients or members of the wider public at risk.”
Therefore, the Government and Law Society advice with which we wholeheartedly agree is that all home movers should delay moving to a new home while the stay at home measures are in place should be followed and that parties should seek for all settlements to be delayed and to only move home when it is reasonably necessary to do so at this time, where the move is able to be completed safely and the property is empty or can also be safely vacated.
Registers of Scotland have now opened an online portal to allow Advance Notices to be submitted online and they are working on online solutions to allow submission of deeds for registration digitally while they are unable to receive applications by post.
While The Law Society of Scotland and Registers of Scotland are putting interim measures in place to allow some settlements to take place, a conveyancing settlement requires a number of different parties to be able to implement various legal and practical processes, which in the current circumstances are becoming increasingly difficult to achieve. We are closely monitoring all transactions and advising clients on a case-by-case basis how best to proceed.
The EPP Group advises everyone to observe the lockdown recommendations and social distancing requirements.
Despite restrictions, there is still market activity and you will be pleased to hear of our accurate statistics from Monday 23rd March to Monday 6th April inclusive –
- Number of properties on the market with EPPG Firms: 260
- Website hits across all our websites (consistent with the same period in 2019): 12,197
- Social media activity: up considerably across all four firms
- Enquiries across all services by email, telephone call, social media direct message: 653
- Home Report downloads: 1,674
- Offers Received on properties for sale: 70 (many of which under closing date scenarios)
- Viewings requested and registered on our systems (many of which have been arranged virtually): 274
- Offers submitted (many of which subject to an in-person viewing in the future): 31
- Offers accepted: 16
Tzana Webster, Sales and Marking Manager at Warners Solicitors and Estate Agents, said: “The EPP Group is an extremely important voice of reason during uncertain times. This group is working around the clock to ensure changes to processes, adaptations to marketing and innovative technology is being utilised to ensure that we can still provide our clients – both sellers and buyers – the best possible service to continue to keep the market moving whilst adhering to the necessary public health social distancing measures. Our group is here to provide factual property information on the activity in our firms as we see it at the forefront and provide assurances and an honest perspective to clients who may be looking to move in 2020. We want to give you information beyond the dramatic headlines and explain what is really going on. We are still receiving enquiries, viewing requests (many of which are arranged virtually), Notes of Interest and Offers – and submitting these on behalf of buyers too! – indicating that there is a lot of activity still in the market however new listings and transactions are effectively postponed until they can be carried out safely which understandably explains why new listings and transaction figures are down compared to previous periods.
Don’t let scaremongering put you off pursuing your prospective sale and/or purchase. You can effectively use this time with your Solicitor to do homework on properties you are interested in or how you can get your property ready for the sale in the future. The EPP Group are all on hand to provide you with relevant information, research and virtual appraisals or consultations during this difficult time.”
Stacey Wilson, Director at VMH Solicitors and Estate Agents, said: “VMH are delighted to collaborate with innovative, forward thinking firms who understand and know the local Edinburgh property market and the clients they serve. Despite the ongoing health crisis, clients are keen to obtain information from reliable sources and from the firms and professionals that are open remotely and dealing with transactions day to day. Our statistics underline this and VMH are looking forward to sharing more data with the public via EPPG as time progresses. There is still a lot of activity in the market, despite the shock and constraints which mean that the majority of surveys and transactions cannot understandably settle for now however we are working hard for our clients within the guidelines and are hopeful that we will see a notable bounce back once the lockdown restrictions are lifted in due course as the market is remarkably resilient.”
Jenna Spence, Operations Director at Neilsons Solicitors and Estate Agents, said: “Neilsons are looking forward to collaborating with other EPPG firms who are demonstrating that they are pro-active, innovative and here to help clients during what is a stressful and worrying time. At Neilsons, we have continued to record strong activity indicating the resilience of the local market and we – along with other firms in the EPPG – have adapted amazingly well by continuing to offer our clients excellent service coupled with innovative features so that clients can navigate the constraints imposed on the market as a result of the necessary public health restrictions.
Whilst we did note a slight decrease in viewing activity week commencing 23rd March which we believe this was understandably down to the public adjusting to a ‘new normal’ at home, last week, commencing 30th March, we recorded a 150% increase in viewing activity on the previous week. So far in total, Neilsons have organised 21 virtual viewings between sellers and prospective buyers. In addition, our social media activity has jumped up 475% which is a remarkable figure and demonstrates the interest in the market as it indicates the level of engagement online.
We are also noticing a distinct increase in first time buyer activity – 70% of enquiries received over the weekend just past were from first time buyers. Many Offers being submitted by our Solicitors on behalf of purchasers are now being submitted “subject to a future in-person viewing” and we have had Offers accepted on this basis so far.
We expect to see activity continue and are here with the rest of the EPP group, to assist sellers and buyers during this challenging time and by working innovatively and proactively within the necessary social distancing measures.”
Laura Walker, Partner at Deans Solicitors and Estate Agents LLP, said: “We, at Deans look forward to collaborating with Neilsons, Warners and VMH as a collective of four experienced, professional and innovative Solicitor Estate Agents in East Central Scotland as EPPG. Deans have been working tirelessly to assist clients in the current climate. We are here to help when clients need us most and are committed to navigating our clients through the challenges they are currently encountering.
We have agreed new sales and purchases, placed and received notes of interest and assisted clients in progressing mortgage applications, whilst respecting the public health restrictions currently in place.”
Amy Howard, Head of Estate Agency at Deans Solicitors and Estate Agents LLP, added: “Deans along with other EPPG members have innovated and adapted to conduct virtual viewings and valuations which many firms believed would not be possible or have had little interest in doing. We would urge those interested in the property market to follow the updates from this group and get in touch with us for up-to-the-minute advice and information. Our initial conversations are always free of charge and our helpful and friendly staff are working hard to look after clients and inform safely and remotely.”
We are still here for you – despite these challenging times so do get in touch for free, no obligation advice if you require it.
Stay safe – this too shall pass.
- Law Society of Scotland Coronavirus Updates
- ESPC Coronavirus Updates
- Registers of Scotland Coronavirus Updates