A strong property market will have plentiful buyers with a good supply of property for sale but this is rarely the case. In reality, activity in the housing market is usually top driven or bottom driven and in the current market most of the action is being propelled from below rather than above.
Last year, first time buyer numbers across the UK reached the highest level for ten years. This was helped by the Government's stamp duty cut, help-to-buy programme and lower deposit and cheaper mortgage deals. It was also helped by less competition as for some years a big impediment to first time buyers purchasing a property has been buy to let cash investors. But some crucial tax measures have put this sector into neutral, for the time being at least, and helped make welcome room for those who have reached the stage of buying a home of their own.
Demand is generally high across all of our offices with families and commuters attracted by excellent schools, good transport links and a high quality of life. Around 30% of our buyers are moving out of London and it will be interesting to see how that figure is affected, either positively or negatively, by the cooling off of property prices in the capital. However, an ongoing lack of new instructions, not helped by the poor weather conditions during the first few months of the year, means that, despite it being a buyers' market, demand is being negatively impacted by a lack of choice.
The latest RICS Market Survey indicates that this is unlikely to change significantly in the coming months and that prices are likely to remain flat. Certainly, there is more price sensitivity than for many years and sales are more complex, but the buyers and sellers we do have are generally very committed to a move. This does mean that we are seeing less sales fall through as a result of either party changing their mind, which is the one thing in the sales process that we cannot influence, no matter how effective our sales progression.
Similarly, with regards to the lettings market, tenant demand is expected to remain pretty much unchanged but with a decline in landlord instructions as a result of the constant legislation changes that continue to blight this market, rental prices may experience modest growth.
The property market shouldn't really be a rollercoaster ride influenced by legislation, tax measures and financial instruments but this is often the case. Nor should it be dominated by those who treat housing as a commodity. There should be balance and space for those who, first and foremost, seek a home for themselves and their families.