Coronavirus Update 3
As we are now some weeks into the coronavirus lockdown, and the potential lifting of property market restrictions still some indeterminate time ahead, we feel it time to share a little of what we've seen happening in the surveying market over the last couple of months.
The new year started very full of promise, with trends very much on the up following the General Election. That continued until March when awareness that the new coronavirus was becoming not "just another sort of 'flu", but an imminent global health crisis.
As can be seen on the graph below, the first week of March was still 'business as usual', slowing somewhat into the second week. By the 3rd week (commencing 16th March), the public were clearly jittery and preempting the Government's lockdown announcement on 23rd, with search volumes for surveys on Google down by over 50%, continuing that steep downward path until the end of the month.
The first week of April saw search engine volumes down by some 85% on the equivalent week in March, matters also not helped by the long weekend of Easter 10th-13th April. Given that the country was in lockdown, and in theory everyone stuck indoors, it was surprising to see that the Easter bank holiday weekend still had some effect!
Since Easter, Google volumes have increased slightly week on week, to be back to about 25% of the pre-lockdown level.
Fortunately, the drop in Google search volumes hasn't fully translated to a similar drop in activity on our website, with leads over April at around 30% of normal. Feedback on lead quality has been a little mixed - some have reported an increase in 'time wasters', but others have reported lead to instruction conversion rates as good as, and in one or two cases better than normal, with some also having pre-booked surveys for when the restrictions are eased. Conversion rates may have been helped as a result of many surveyors choosing to suspend accounts temporarily, with fewer surveyors being returned in results. That is particularly true outside of London.
When the lockdown started, our take on things was that after the initial shock as new buyers were stopped at source, volumes would steadily decrease as home buying transactions already under way filtered through the system, but that doesn't quite seem to have been the case, as there seems to be more ongoing activity in the market than might be expected in the circumstances.
Our expectation for the next few weeks is that current levels are likely to continue much as they are, until restrictions on Estate Agents offices, viewings and inspections are eased and activity increases. In the meantime we will continue to do what we can to generate leads for those that need or want them.