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Alchemi’s Insight On The Pandemic

31.03.20

Charlie Baxter, Managing Director and co-founder of Alchemi Group, the award-winning development manager currently responsible for the transformation of Grade II listed Westminster Fire Station, has shared his insights on not only how his company is responding to these unforeseen challenges, but also his predictions for the market this year, after what was building up to be a strong spring market.

Charlie Baxter, Managing Director and co-founder of Alchemi Group:

1. What practical steps are Alchemi Group taking in response to the Coronavirus outbreak?

Like many London businesses we’ve asked our team at Alchemi Group to work from home until further notice, while keeping visits to the Westminster Fire Station site to a minimum and making a greater use of FaceTime.

2. What measures do you have in place if you have to shut down activity on site at Westminster Fire Station?

Some of the products we are using for Westminster Fire Station are coming from overseas - including European countries currently affected by the corona virus - and in anticipation of delayed deliveries we’re working closely with our contractors to consider resequencing of programmes to mitigate delays.

3. Have you noticed any changes in buyers / seller / landlord / tenant behaviour as a result of the virus?

The Central London sales market was off to a strong start at the beginning of the year and with a lack of quality, bespoke new build homes on market, we experienced a significant increase in enquiries for our Westminster Fire Station development. This was felt particularly after the recent budget announcements which set the clock ticking for overseas buyers keen to complete purchases before next April when a 2% surcharge in SDLT will be levied. As our Westminster Fire Station development is due to be launched at a time which will coincide with this change, we’ve been building a healthy list of interested purchasers. The coronavirus has, however, clearly paused this interest as people rightly prioritise health and family.

4. How do you think the pandemic will affect the residential property market this year?

The pandemic will certainly delay what was building up to be a strong Spring Market. However, we expect there to be pent up demand that will make for a busy summer – if the virus subsides with warmer weather. The recently reduced interest rates should lead to cheaper borrowing costs which will also increase purchaser appetite. The government has recently written to the Mayor lamenting the very disappointing average of 37,000 homes a year being built in London right now – against a target of 65,000 a year. This may lead to a significant pent up demand and supply imbalance later this year.

Adds Charlie: Our Westminster Fire Station development is still tightly under wraps from sales perspective so we haven’t had to adapt anything. However, the fit out-stage of the construction programme is well underway and meeting limitations and other restrictions are adding a layer of challenge for our Quality Monitoring team. Fortunately technology like FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom etc make it much easier to have virtual eyes and ears on site nowadays meaning we currently have quite a few ‘armchair experts’ dispensing advice on quality from home.

To find out more about the Alchemi Group, click here: https://www.alchemigroup.com/projects

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