The sun has finally returned to ours skies and you’re on the lookout for a little bit of summer reading. As keen follower of the property market, you’ve naturally signed up for all the daily newsletters charting the goings on in the market to make yourself a property whizz by autumn.
But after reading all the different articles and opinions, you soon become confused. Very, very confused!
One day you read that property prices are slowing, that the time to secure a sale is getting longer and that purchaser demand is in decline.
The next day you see there’s been a surprise rise in mortgage applications; that asking prices are on the up and that more properties are being placed on the market than in recent times. It doesn’t exactly lead to a clear view of reality, does it?
In the industry, we’re coming into contact with Joe Public each and every day and for a great many ‘normal people’, news headlines can lead to a huge amount of confusion and it’s our job, I believe, to instil some clarity and honesty.
But what is that reality?
Well, in my view it’s that things are all pretty positive. Rightmove recently reported that prices are at an all-time high, whilst Property Week highlighted that the number of properties being marketed across the UK’s top towns and cities is significantly up compared to last year.
At its most basic, that means that average prices are up at the same time as transactions are increasing – that’s surely a win, win situation and I believe it demonstrates that green shoots really are out there.
Of course, reports and indices are all well and good, but they’re often measured using different criteria in different places at different times and, therefore, don’t provide useful points of comparison.
And indeed, ‘the’ property market probably isn’t, in all honesty, a single entity in any case. The market is more likely a combined mixture of many micro markets, not just based on regions but on localised need, suburban nuances and individual circumstance.
For a business such as Andrews, however, we do gain a pretty good insight into what’s happening out there. Our branch network extends across a diverse geographical landscape and while that is, admittedly, just across the South of the UK, there’s no denying the stark differences that can be seen between South London suburbia and rural Gloucestershire – no-one would expect a one-bedroom flat in Stroud, Gloucestershire to command a similar value to its counterpart in South West London, would they?
Naturally, there has been some cooling off in recent times and the speed of recovery varies from one area to another. What appears consistent, however, is that demand is encouragingly high across the board, albeit with purchasers and renters alike being increasingly discerning.
In London (where some would lead you to believe the market is in freefall), our sales teams report a cooler market but one which remains encouragingly active. Similarly, sales demand in the South West remains high and the teams there anticipate price increases during the remainder of this year, albeit at a slower pace than they’ve witnessed before.
And it’s a positive message in the lettings sector too where all our key markets are reporting an increasingly buoyant market where quality property stock is letting faster than ever.
These aren’t areas that we’re comparing against one another. They’re simply places where confidence in property is buoyant and as an industry, it’s that which we need to remain focused on.
I honestly believe that confidence is key and right now, there’s little reason not to be confident… unless you allow yourself to be too swayed by some headlines, of course!
*David Westgate is Group Chief Executive of Andrews Property Group