22 SEPTEMBER 2014
There may only be a few months left until Christmas but there is still plenty of time to buy a new home. While it may not be the most fashionable time of year to buy – on balance, that remains the spring when homes tend to look their best – there is a lot to be said for swimming against the tide.
That is particularly true this autumn. After five years of strong growth, the housing market is undeniably cooling. It is an increasingly uncertain world, with the Scottish vote for independence, the forthcoming general election, an interest-rate rise possibly in the second quarter of next year and the threat of a mansion tax. All this uncertainty means that the next six to nine months is likely to be an improving market for buyers.
Estate agents will be advising vendors to alter their expectations downwards as they head towards the end of the calendar year. Buyers in October, November and December will find they are a bigger fish in a smaller pond. There will be far less competition than in March or April, and you will almost certainly attract more attention from agents who have one eye on their year-end figures (for those who work on the calendar year).
The sensible approach for buyers is to focus less on the shifting sands of the wider market and concentrate on identifying the right property. That one property could come to the market on Christmas Eve, not necessarily at the height of the spring market when there is likely to be heightened competition for the ‘best in class’ anyway. The deal one can achieve will depend as much on the strength of a buyer’s position, and the willingness of the vendor to sell at a reasonable price, which will often come down to their motives for selling and the ability of their selling agent to manage their expectations. In prime central London, truly motivated sellers are difficult to find, their interest often more speculative than driven by genuine need, though if they sense values are softening it is likely to encourage those have sat on the fence and hoped to catch the market at the top.
If you are being strategic about your property purchase, it makes sense to come to market when there are fewer buyers to compete with. You may also need to use your imagination as the winter approaches - the days are shorter, there is less light and outside space is considerably less appealing – these conditions predominate in the UK climate, so seeing property in the wind and the rain will be a far better representation of its strengths and weaknesses than if seen on a baking hot summer’s day.
There is an obsession with some purchasers about buying property off-market but you often have to pay strongly for the benefit of it not being marketed. If it is of very high quality then you will probably need to acquire it at a premium level. We buy plenty of property off-market and buy it well but if you don’t have to buy straightaway it might be worth waiting to let it find its own level. Waiting for a property to come to market, and keeping your powder dry, could be a better strategy and this autumn there may be opportunities to buy something that has dropped in price.