A frank and honest view of the property market right now by George Clover

Here’s some background from me, I grew up and have been lucky enough to work in Mid Devon as an estate agent for the last 15 years.

A quick summary of the last 18 months goes like this. End of 2019 and all is well. It was a good (but normal) year for sales with prices increasing just ahead of inflation as usual. I think it’s safe to say that there was a consistent supply of properties of all types coming to the market and indeed a similar amount of properties being sale agreed. In a normal market, the supply and demand is balanced to create a stable and level playing field. January to March 2020 continued like nothing was happening, houses still coming on, still being agreed.

The news of the pandemic did little to surpress the market locally until lockdown hit in mid March. Clearly everything stopped. If you think back to that initial lockdown, it was a hard lockdown. The world stopped, the country stopped and the housing industry stopped. Very few deals where being progressed by solicitors, agents weren’t able to value (except virtually) and even if selling services were wanted, we couldn’t get out to take photos!

When the housing market “opened” in the middle of May, we had no idea what that market would look like. It was a surprise. May 2020 and we’re allowed to conduct estate agency business in a covid secure manner. It was new, but ok. The market was crazy. Straight back into plenty of listings, plenty of sales being agreed – but why? Initially the pent up demand from people being unable to buy due to lockdown caused a bit of a jump start but nothing really unusual, prices were still fairly similar to pre-lockdown and bids over the guide prices were rare.

At this stage the chatter started in the press about people fleeing cities. This wasn’t the case, it was simply that the usual buyers from all over the country hadn’t been able to search in person for their next home so it was busy. We saw many country homes going to local buyers.

The government also then announced the stamp duty holiday to stimulate the market. As we know, the whole process of moving house creates plenty of revenue for the country and therefore it was a welcome act. However, it was a countrywide, blanket approach. Did Devon need stimulating? Maybe it did, but maybe it didn’t. What this holiday of stamp duty did do was to bring forward properties to the market that maybe hadn’t planned to sell in 2020. This meant a bumper year for sales. Pricing in the summer and autumn was still fairly consistent. Life was getting back to normal but there were still plenty of properties to go around.

We then reached Christmas 2020. Lockdown again. This time, the lockdown slowed the market in a different way. We were still able to operate, people could buy and sell with a few restrictions but the housing market remained open. With home schooling, post Christmas lockdown, worries about when this will end, many decided to stay put. I mean, who wanted to have buyers in their mess of a house when the kids were causing havoc, winter isn’t the best time to sell either and as I mentioned early, many of the moves planned for Spring 2021 already happened in 2020!

So this led to a shortage of properties hitting the market. That’s a shortage of properties across the board. A pattern that’s replicated all over the country not just here. The housing market is all about supply and demand and right now, supply is low and demand is high. It isn’t (in my opinion) that all the good houses are being bought by people from outside the area because they’ve suddenly decided to move here, it’s that they would have moved here anyway and there’s less properties to go around and they do have deeper pockets than some locals. Combine that with all the local people that have sold or are waiting to sell when their net house comes up – it’s a recipe for prices to jump and over the guide price prices to be paid.

This is what we are seeing and not just the properties with land, village and town properties are going for more too. It’s not just the country/land market that its happening to. The frustration is there for all. There aren’t many properties coming on. Agents aren’t helping matters by only allowing sold/cash buyers to view which prevents more housing stock coming to the market because they fear they’ll agree a sale and have no-where to go and this behaviour will prolong this cycle. At Helmores, we’re allowing non-proceedable viewings from local people wherever possible for them to start the process of a move, it’s in all our interests to do this.

So what’s going to happen? The answer is that we don’t know but something has to give. Either more properties must come on, or less buyers be available. At the moment, it doesn’t look like the latter but my diary is filling up more and more for properties coming onto the market. I can’t promise they’ll be in budget, or equestrian dream homes but the more properties that are on the market, of any type, the better it will be for the market in general.

The thing is, we live in such a beautiful place, there’s always demand! Let’s hope that we gradually see more coming on and get back to that balance and everyone knows where they stand – at the moment it’s the Wild West (country). If anyone would like to hear more then please get in touch and I’d love to help you guys get moving!!

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