House prices across the UK fell by the most in more than 11 years during May as the Covid-19 outbreak hammered market activity.

Latest figures from mortgage lender Nationwide show that prices fell by 1.7% between April and May, the biggest monthly decline since February 2009. In annual terms, prices rose by 1.8%, a stark deceleration from April’s 3.7% reading.

Nationwide added that official tax data showed that residential property transactions were down by an annual 53% in April, with the medium-term outlook remaining “highly uncertain”.

Samuel Tombs, economist with Pantheon Macroeconomics, said May’s figures were likely just the start of a slide that will persist through the rest of this year.

“The huge size of the blow from Covid-19 to households’ incomes and the deterioration in consumers’ confidence suggests that house prices must drop,” he said. “We look for a 5% decline in prices by the third quarter.”

Online boost as Card Factory plans to re-open stores

Retailer Card Factory said online sales at its main website have more than quadrupled since the start of the coronavirus lockdown as it confirmed plans to reopen 10% of its shops.

The chain said like-for-like sales at have surged 302% since lockdown and are 153% higher so far this financial year. The group has launched a second warehouse unit in Wakefield to meet rocketing demand for online orders.

Card Factory has more than 1,000 stores in the UK and Ireland, and is planning a slow re-opening of shops from around June 15. Further openings will be “subject to our early learnigns”.

The firm has furloughed more than 90% of its staff and has cancelled payment of its 2019-20 final dividend. In addition, it does not expect to pay a dividend for the current year.

Results for the year to the end of January revealed an 11.8% drop in underlying pre-tax profits to £67.2 million, with the group blaming a "very challenging market" and soaring costs.

Future of work to be ‘more precarious and unequal’

A group of academics have warned that the UK is set for an increase in zero-hours contracts and other forms of unsecure employment in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.

Researchers from Durham University, King’s College and University Paris-Dauphine are also predicting growth in the popularity of online labour platform workforces, the development of crowd-based forms of entrepreneurship, and the increased emergence of co-working spaces. This shift away from “formal organisation” will further blur the boundaries between work and private life.

Dr Jeremy Aroles, assistant professor of organisation studies at Durham University Business School, said home and virtual offices will likely be key components of the new world of work.

“Globalisation, economic volatility and technological changes have been the catalyst for a number of changes to the wider workplace in recent years,” he said.

“The impact of Covid-19 has called into question this globalisation, created further economic volatility, and forced millions of workers to work from home and further utilise technologies, accelerating the transition into a new world of work further.”