The slow down witnessed in central London is a direct result of the most significant change in the housing market in 2016 - a stamp duty surcharge on buy-to-let and second homes. Since April, anyone buying a home that is not their main residence has had to pay a 3% stamp duty surcharge. This, alongside a rise in normal stamp duty costs for £1m-plus homes since 2014, had a bigger impact on the market than the Brexit vote last June.
It was thought Brexit would send the market into a crashing downward spiral, but after immediately cooling, it recovered quickly. The lack of new homes being built and the difficulty to move at the top end of the market; means for Greater London the lack of supply will continue to prop up the market and despite all the other pressures on affordability, asking prices continue to increase (even if it is at a steadier pace).
Statistically speaking Southwark’s Cathedrals ward by the South Bank, has been the best performing neighbourhood in London, with the number of sales up an incredible 114% year on year. Camberwell Green, also in Southwark, is performing strongly too, with the number of homes sold up 57% year on year. There has been a boom in new builds launching in the areas, but with a precedence set, these record prices can only trickle out into the surrounding areas.
The London property market is once again proving that despite what is thrown at it; it will bounce back and remain resilient. Stock might not be flying off the shelves as it once was, but we are seeing our well marketed, competitively priced properties sell. Our advice would be if considering selling soon; now is probably a better time than anticipated. London and the political climate are ever changing and things right now are relatively stable. Prices have reached new highs and waiting around for the UK to actually say goodbye to the European Union, could have a detrimental effect on prices.
Being competitively and realistically priced is key to selling as it’s no longer a sellers’ market. This is not all bad though, we have just come back to the normality of putting a property on the market and expecting offers. If priced correctly, in the first instance, negotiating to achieve asking price is still very much possible. Vendors also often forget that in most scenarios they are also buyers. When buying an onward purchase, there is always the opportunity to put offers forward that reflect what you have accepted; you may just get a better deal.
If buying for investment purposes; we recommend to think long term as currently it’s not the market for quick gains made by flipping properties. Improvements across the capital are taking place such as Cross Rail and the Bakerloo line extension from Elephant & Castle to Lewisham. Properties in these areas will surge in price as the completion of these projects approach, so buying before the boom i.e. now! Is advised and rent will provide a steady income until such time.
Whilst the number of properties coming to the market was at an all-time high, conversely, rents did not increase as in previous years. Principally it was buy-to-let portfolio landlords attempting to beat the 3% stamp duty deadline so a swathe of new-build SE1 property hit the shelves post April 1st 2016.
Wage increases were also sluggish in comparison to the sharp rise in the cost of living, directly affecting rent affordability. High rents and lower wages did not equal properties going under offer, which in turn created a saturated market. Landlords had to adjust to the stabilising market to ensure they avoided costly void periods.
However, it was not all doom and gloom! The market did settle in the second half of the year and activity levels picked up, further highlighting the resilience of central London, particularly in the traditional heart of Southwark and Lambeth boroughs.
Despite all the negative press in the last few months and the on-going political crises surrounding the UK’s property market, trends indicate that rents will continue to remain strong. According to Savills 2017 forecasts, rental growth is predicted to outstrip sales growth.
This can be attributed to the struggle of the ever-increasing cost to first-time buyers. Consequently, stock levels are predicted to remain high, with fresh instructions appearing daily in the ever-popular Waterloo & Bankside areas.
However too many properties are being brought to market at over-inflated prices by estate agents, eager for an instruction. This bullish approach, fundamentally, costs the landlord money by having a property vacant for numerous weeks.
To achieve quick and effective results, we recommend pricing a property at the true, current, market price; this will ensure landlords secure a tenant fast, minimising losses by avoiding unnecessary void periods.
So it’s summer? There’s been Wimbledon, The Commonwealth Games, The Chelsea Flower Show for goodness sake! Is it any great surprise then that the market has cooled a little? Surely everyone has better things to do, like go on holiday, sit in the sun, drink Pimms, entertain the kids.
Okay, announcements from Mr Carney revising bank lending; insisting on larger deposits and only borrowing up to 4 times your salary, have had some impact. Given that this is only coming into effect in September, can this really be the cause of the down turn? Or… is it that certain banks, like Lloyds, have decided to cull the amount of ‘Help to Buy’ properties they give the green light? Or could it be that the media, having beamed its headlights on the market, bombarding us with analytical coverage and speculation; has driven buyers to press the pause button on the past years sealed bid phenomena sweeping the London housing market?
I say pause or perhaps a hiatus, a Pinter’esk pause…
Why am I not sweating profusely from the obvious END OF THE MARKET AS WE HAVE KNOWN IT!?! Well for numerous reasons, mainly, none of this comes as any particular surprise.
Historically it is always fairly quiet in summer, for all the reasons above and then some. For all Mr Carney’s good intentions, generally, well certainly in our patch of London, buyers seem to be cash rich or looking at the Buy to Let market, therefore the impact on salary restrictions won’t make a tremendous difference. Those that do require a mortgage seem to have a healthy deposit, typically 15-25%. As for the Help to Buy scheme, we haven’t come across one yet. I’m not saying these things won’t have any impact, of course they will, but on the whole I’d say they aren’t the sole cause of the current easing in the market.
Notice the word, easing.
This time last year it was widely advertised that interest rates couldn’t stay at the same appetising rate for long. This along with the increasing bun fight for a property in London, which was reminiscent of the sort of mad frenzy you’d expect to see for One Direction, not a one bed in Bethnal Green or Whitechapel; yes the East End is officially HOT, drew a lot of attention to what was going on in the Capital. Subsequently the media got interested and the governor of the Bank of England, funny that.
As an agent, in this sort of market, we are supposed to rub our hands together in glee, but those of us who were around for 2007 know that anything that seems too good to be true; generally is. Now hold your horses, this doesn’t mean we think the market is suddenly going to crumble like Pompeii. ‘Damn’, I hear you cry, ‘We were holding off buying so we could swoop in and get ourselves a bargain!’ And that my friend is why the market is slower. Everyone is on hold. The problem with that is eventually you need to stop the record skipping and hear out your favourite tune. The market hasn’t dropped, it’s just flattened, not at 10% lower than it was at the start of the year but exactly where it was. Buyers maybe more cautious at open days but prices haven’t dropped and sellers require market value, so don’t expect them to discount for the sake of a few holiday months and why should they, you wouldn’t?
Ultimately no one knows what the future holds but if you are looking to invest, London is a good bet. Recently voted the most expensive City in the World; investors from across the globe want a piece of it, parents are helping out their siblings, banks are seeing saving accounts emptied due to the lack of interest and all are looking to invest in The Capital. Even if things don’t continue to escalate, they will at some point, look at 2007, no one thought we’d be able to reach those dizzy heights again and 6 years on we have surpassed those prices in some cases by 40%.
Developers are continuing to build, demand outstrips supply and Crossrail will revitalise areas like the Overland did for E8 and beyond. So, if you are looking to buy, don’t wait for some spectacular drop which is unlikely to happen, just buy smart; somewhere that is on the rise, is a good long term investment and you would happily live in for more than a few months if you had too. Otherwise, I fear, as many did in 2013, that what you can afford now could be out of reach in a few months’ time.