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First flush of spring sees increased buyer choice

The start of spring has coincided with buoyant housing market forecasts.

Reflecting on a first quarter of 2023 which saw buyer choice increasing and price growth moderating, Nicky Stevenson, managing director of premium estate agency Fine & Country, said: “Both Rightmove and Zoopla report that as spring takes hold, demand for property remains above pre-pandemic levels.”

February sales volumes that were 9 % below pandemic levels might cool off some of the optimism for some, however Stevenson sees real hope, in particular the 10% uptick in approval of mortgages between January and February, the highest at a start of a year since 2011. “The middle of March saw average two- and five-year fixed-rate mortgage deals at six-month lows and although the Bank of England raised the base rate of interest to 4.25% on 23rd March, there has been little change in the 5-year swap rate, indicative of longer-term stability in the market,” adds Stevenson.

“With the ratio of new sales to new instructions returning to pre-Covid levels, the demand/supply imbalance that fuelled price growth is correcting. Nationwide reports that the average property prices fell by 3.1% in the year to March, however they remain 17% higher than when the country went into lockdown three years ago. That said, sensible and realistic pricing is paramount in achieving sales success.” She adds that: “With tighter budgets, buyers are more conscious of property conditions. ‘Ready-to-move-in’ is the most sought-after feature for current buyers, ranking above the garden or home-working space demands that typified the post-pandemic market.”

Rightmove report that activity levels for smaller properties, two bedrooms or less, are just 4 % lower than in the last ‘normal’ market of 2019. However, sales volumes for larger properties are lagging by 10%.


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