These are eventful times in the property markets. As Britain moved into its first 2020 lockdown, industry leader Knight Frank stepped up with an urgent five-point plan to galvanise the market, calling for a Stamp Duty holiday, an extension to Help to Buy, a review of the conveyancing process, the introduction of virtual planning meetings and greater flexibility around planning obligations.
Six months on, all five issues had been addressed by the government, and the housing market was riding a wave of enthusiasm, defying all expectations. With people recalibrating their lifestyles and demanding more from their homes, prices rose and sales volumes soared. Between August and October Knight Frank reported a 121 per cent increase (against the five-year average) in the number of offers accepted across Britain. Its Richmond office in south-west London negotiated £30 million of transactions in August alone, turning a quiet month into the busiest for over 13 years.
The country house market was also busier than usual, as buyers sought out green space and larger homes. As long as they had excellent internet speed and space for at least one home office, properties were seeing multiple bids and achieving sales over the guide price. The fast pace all added up to a rollercoaster of emotions for buyers and sellers alike in 2020. But Knight Frank has always understood this aspect of property dealing. Part of its mantra is: ‘There’s a human element in the world of property that is too easily overlooked.’
Founded in 1896, headquartered in London, with 480 offices across 57 territories and over 20,000 people, Knight Frank is a property business that’s ‘locally expert and globally informed’. Its continuing success comes down to its consistent, personalised service, long-term relationships and solid knowledge across residential and commercial markets. It also offers a breadth of expert-led services in valuation, property management, strategic consultancy and debt advice, to name a few.
Last year, however, called for an innovative approach. It was critical to adapt and improve on existing technology. ‘We exponentially developed the digitisation of our business,’ says Tim Hyatt, head of UK residential, ‘pivoting to offer virtual viewings on all our properties – an accurate, immersive and popular alternative to physical viewings. We became the number one result for searches of “virtual viewing” on Instagram. We believe the technology used could revolutionise the way in which our customers arrange viewings in the long term, even after social distancing measures are relaxed.’
The business also launched two podcasts, Intelligence Talks and At Home With, to share up-to-the-minute insight on people and movements in the property market, and successfully introduced auctions, the first of which featured nine British properties selling at an average of £910,000.
For a firm that built its success on human relationshipsto have pivoted to the virtual world with such agility is no small achievement. But needs must. As the Stamp Duty holiday draws to a close, it is to be hoped that Knight Frank’s leadership will inspire sellers, buyers, mortgage lenders, developers, renovators and even removal companies to do whatever it takes to keep this all-important market moving.