The post-Covid frenzy for buying in the country was a phenomenon that spanned a good eighteen months, showing a marked inflation over that period of some 15% – 20% in Wiltshire, Dorset and Somerset (Land Registry Index), although many of the properties we sold demonstrated an improvement even on this figure.
By the middle of 2022, however, mounting energy costs together with inflation and rising interest rates led to a calming of what had been a frenetic market, with some of the ‘froth’ coming off the top. It remained busy over the summer months until the infamous ‘mini budget’ at the end of September 2022 led to an unsettled period with trading levels slowing down drastically and prices falling back some 5% – 10% from their previous highs.
During the early months of 2023 a long, wet winter held back the traditional spring market but it eventually budded. In comparison to other regions, this part of the country was cushioned by continuing demand for character homes in the best locations and, with an ongoing lack of supply, prices were underpinned for those top properties.
Over the summer & autumn months of 2023 Rural View had a particularly successful period at the upper end of market, selling many country houses and with most attracting strong competition. 70% of these sales were conducted off market.
The economy showed early signs of recovery during the second half of the year and confidence in the rest of the housing sector gradually returned, with activity levels improving over the autumn and early winter months. Stock levels were certainly down throughout 2023, but we found that there were still plenty of serious buyers.
Looking forward to the twelve months ahead, the crystal ball is somewhat cloudy. At the time of writing, mortgage rates are falling and the hope is that the base rate will come down as well. We are already seeing improved sentiment in the buyers that we are speaking to, which fills us with confidence, and our thinking is that 2024 will be a much less volatile market with prices remaining stable. We expect our region to continue being an attractive destination for buyers drawn to its beautiful countryside, excellent schools and quality of life, and we hope to see a gradual upturn in overall market conditions as the year progresses.