After a hectic early few months last year, the 2022 property market finished with a whimper rather than a bang. With UK interest rates already on the up as a consequence of the strained global economic and geopolitical picture creating galloping inflation, the disastrous mini budget at the end of September resulted in a steep rise in mortgage rates during the autumn. This led to a drop off in activity levels by the end of the year and a flattening of, and even a small dip in house prices.
Coming into the new year there has been much talk about what’s going to happen to the housing sector in 2023 and especially to property prices. Our thoughts are that it will probably be a muted start before things pick up again in the spring. After years of feast or famine, we are hopeful that the market will settle down as the next few months progress with steadier, calmer trading conditions ahead. Although house prices might come back a little, we don’t envisage a steep drop over the coming year as they are likely to be supported by the demand for homes continuing to outstrip supply.
Agents will often have one or two properties on their books which are not visible on the usual property portals but are available to buy. This is usually because the house owners would rather sell on a more discreet basis. Over the winter months there’s a generally held assumption that there are fewer buyers around and so sellers whose homes have been on the market for a little while will sometimes ask their agents to put their properties in the ‘bottom drawer’ so as to avoid them becoming ‘stale’ although they are still want to move.
It is true that there are normally fewer viewings during the winter months but actually those that do take place can be more effective. After all, buyers who venture out on a cold, miserable winter’s day tend to be serious, genuine purchasers and indeed, we have agreed sales on Christmas Eve. In 2016, despite it being the year of the Brexit referendum, the last quarter of that year was by far our busiest for arranging sales.
This winter, we are seeing a larger number of houses going under the counter as a result of the general election and Brexit impasse with vendors waiting to see how the political situation resolves itself. Rather than just relying on what they see on Rightmove, Zoopla, OnTheMarket etc., prospective buyers are therefore advised to make a point of contacting agents directly to ask whether they have any suitable houses which are not being featured on the property websites. They might just unearth what they’re looking for!
This might be a trifle premature but after three years of a fairly stagnant housing market, it seems to have woken up over the last couple of weeks. Rural View have been busy not only registering new buyers, arranging viewings and receiving offers but we have also had a tranche of new instructions come our way with more properties due to be launched to the market over the coming days. Let’s hope this is not a false dawn but a positive return to an active housing market!
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The question regularly asked by prospective house sellers is whether it is a good idea to market one’s home over the winter months or is best to wait until spring?
Traditionally the spring/early summer has been regarded as the prime selling season but in recent years the peaks and troughs between the usual ebb and flow of activity in the housing sector over the course of the year have been much shallower. Indeed, it could be said that that the old rules no longer apply in that over the last few years there have been seasons when the market is normally busy which have turned out to be quiet and other times when it is usually quiet but have actually been busy. In 2016 for example, our most productive trading period by far was the last quarter of the year, i.e. autumn/winter.
The unsettling effect of the current febrile political atmosphere surrounding Brexit is likely to rumble on for some time yet and the market in 2019 is likely to be as uncertain as it has been in 2018. Despite predictions at the start of the year and contrary to what has been happening in the London and Home Counties, prices in the South Wiltshire/North Dorset area have remained firm.
This is partly explained by the lack of properties on the market locally coupled with demand remaining healthy and this has helped to shore up prices. Other factors are that people still need to move despite what is happening in the World and also this region is increasingly regarded as an attractive place to live.
It could be argued that with the political and economic situation only likely to become even more chaotic it is better to sell now rather than later. Furthermore, with fewer properties on the market during the winter there are fewer competitors than there might be in the spring. It is also worth bearing in mind that the Christmas holiday season is when the property portals record their highest levels of search activity.
Many years of experience has taught me that the quality of buyers house hunting over the winter months is as good if not better than at other times. After all, few would want to venture out visiting properties on a cold day in December or January unless they are genuinely serious about finding a new home.
A concern for some about going on the market at this time of the year is that their gardens do not look at their best but on a crisp sunny winter’s day good, flattering photographs can still be taken. Indeed, when it comes to viewings, some houses can actually look at their homeliest with cosy fires going and subtle lighting on.
Whereas the time of year was once a key deciding factor when to put their homes on the market, nowadays this is less important. Future trading conditions are likely to be an unknown quantity for some time to come and so my advice to prospective vendor clients is to take the plunge when it suits them and their onward plans but without the benefit of a crystal ball, it may turn out to be better to do so sooner rather than later.
Rural View are delighted that the Housing Secretary Sajid Javid has announced plans to introduce new measures to speed up the house selling/buying process and professionalise the estate agent sector, driving up standards and bringing an end to ‘rogue managing agents’. This is something that is more than overdue and we, together with the rest of the property industry, have been calling for for many years.
With over one million homes bought and sold in England each year, delays and complications during the process cause unnecessary financial and emotional stress to customers. This uncertainty can lead to delayed decisions and contributes to over one quarter of house sales falling through annually.
According to government research, more than 6 out of 10 buyers and sellers have experienced stress, and around a quarter of sellers said they would use a different estate agent if they were to go through the process again.
Estate agents will now be required to hold a professional qualification and to be transparent about the fees they receive for referring clients to solicitors, surveyors and mortgage brokers. Other measures to make the system easier, faster and more transparent include:
– encouraging the use of voluntary reservation agreements to help prevent sales falling through and crack down on gazumping
– setting a timeline for local authority searches so buyers get the information they need within 10 days
– requiring managing agents and freeholders to provide up-to-date lease information for a set fee and to an agreed timetable which will end the current situation where leaseholders are at the mercy of freeholders and their agents
– strengthening the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team so they can carry out more enforcement activity which includes banning agents
Housing Secretary Sajid Javid said:
– “Buying a home is one of the biggest and most important purchases someone will make in their life. But for far too long buyers and sellers have been trapped in a stressful system full of delays and uncertainty.”
-“So we’re going to put the consumers back in the driving seat. We will require estate agents to hold a qualification so that people are no longer at risk from a minority of ‘rogue agents’ and can trust the process when buying or selling their home.”
Mark Hayward, Chief Executive, NAEA Propertymark said:
-“We particularly welcome the commitment to further regulation – we have long argued that estate agents should be recognised as professionals, this is an important step towards achieving this and we look forward to working with the government.”
There are approximately 20,000 estate agent businesses across the country, and currently, anyone can practice as an estate agent. The changes set out will professionalise the sector, creating a more trustworthy and reliable industry who will be better held to account.
Guides on ‘How to Buy’ and ‘How to Sell’ will be developed and published to ensure customers are better informed of the process and know what questions they should be asking. The government will work with consumer groups and industry to develop a consistent set of performance metrics for conveyancers, so consumers can make a more informed choice.
To bring the profession into the technology era, a working group will be set up to bring industry and partners, such as HM Land Registry, together to look at developing innovative digital solutions to speed up the home buying and selling process.
Government will consult on how the industry can be brought up to professional standards, like those in the same trade such as conveyancers, solicitors and surveyors.