12 months of Covid-19: The impact on the lettings market in numbers

23 March 2021

Once lockdown came into effect on 23rd March 2020, the impact on the sector was swift, but the pace of activity appears to be increasing, pushing volumes much closer to those seen in 2020 before the pandemic hit. 

One year ago, the lettings market ground to an abrupt halt. With viewings and moves prohibited under all but the most exceptional circumstances, the whole industry scrambled to cope with this dramatic turn of events. In the 12 months since, letting agents and landlords have worked tirelessly to get the industry back on track and enable tenants to safely move house. We reviewed the highs and lows of the past year by the numbers, with volumes tracked using our Lettings Activity Tracker.

The height of lockdown

Once lockdown came into effect on 23rd March 2020, the impact on the sector was swift. Until then, the 2020 market had been performing strongly - returning higher than average levels of activity on every single day since the start of the year, compared to 2019 averages. However, from mid-March, as Covid-19 concerns started to ramp up, the market began to stall. 

Between 13th March and 13th April, the lettings market saw the number of new tenancy applications drop from 103% of predicted volumes (compared to 2019 activity), to just 28% of the expected volumes. A dramatic drop of 72% in one month that was felt by the whole industry. 13th April was the slowest day of 2020. However, from there, activity began to gradually pick up pace. 

Summer reprieve

Restrictions were suddenly lifted in early May, with the sector having to rapidly restart operations in a Covid-secure way. Upon re-opening, the market made a slightly erratic return to bigger volumes before bouncing back more consistently in June. 1st June was the first time new tenancy volumes surpassed their 2019 averages since 17th March, as the industry benefited from a release of pent up demand. 

The market then hovered just above or below predicted volumes of new and completed tenancies throughout the summer, including the predicted August rush ahead of the new university term. 

Resilient winter

Despite a slightly more subdued September and October, the real surprise for the market came across the winter. Traditionally a less fast-paced period, lettings surged.

Despite the continual changes to regional tier restrictions and lockdown regulations, house moves were permitted and the market came through November and December in remarkably good shape. 

The number of new lets processed on each day in December 2020 outperformed the 2019 averages. This included a post-Christmas surge, taking the market into 2021 on a high. The busiest winter day for lettings was 27th December 2020, where volumes of new lets soared to 207% of their 2019 average. 

The week beginning 9th November 2020 - a few days after the second lockdown came into force - was the slowest for the market during the winter months. However, average volumes for new lets during that week only dropped by 3% compared to 2019 levels.  

2021 performance to date

The early months of 2021 haven’t been as strong as the first quarter of 2020, which at the time outperformed expectations. Between January 1st 2021 and March 13th 2021, new lets volumes have been tracking at 93% of those recorded over the same period in 2020. 

However, the pace of activity in March (to date) appears to be increasing, helped along by the extension to the Stamp Duty holiday, pushing volumes much closer to those seen in 2020 before the pandemic hit. 

Further reading