Realistic expectations win the day

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THE WORD with Marc Wiehe, Director at Winkworth Streatham, brings challenging news from the coal face of estate agency.

This article is written fully in the spirit of Christmas cheer and in looking forward to peace and goodwill breaking out world-wide in 2019. That is sadly where the nice, fluffy stuff ends! The challenging news from the coal face of estate agency is that 2018 has been one of the most difficult markets to work in and 2019 will most likely be more of the same.

The lack of a clear economic and political horizon and very different expectations of buyers and sellers has been a difficult square to circle. The property market is always very sentiment driven and the very low level of transactions have been further hit by a succession of negative external factors from Stamp Duty changes,increased interest rates and low expectations of a satisfactory resolution to Brexit.

Mark Carney was very Scrooge-like in August with gloomy predictions for a “no-deal” Brexit dooms day scenario. Predictably an already tough market proceeded to hit a wall. It does seem however that sellers have taken note that all is not well and are no longer tempted by the up-front cost, internet-only providers nor are they convinced by the ever higher pricing model proposed by some panicky, inexperienced agents who then lock down a long sole agency contract, only to immediately row back from the price they just quoted.

Those who are trusting good advice and readjusting their expectations from the outset of the process are the ones who are transacting. There are always good buyers – sellers will need to work hard to present their properties in the best possible viewing condition yet still be prepared to have a serious conversation when offers are presented.

We are delighted to work with enlightened innovators like the all-female team behind the Thirlmere Road development featured on page 20. They understand that buyers looking for a first home are raised on a diet of Instagram perfection and are much more likely to offer on something stylish and presented in excellent condition rather than contemplate a project unless they have a lot of imagination and deep pockets. (They generally don’t!)

Family house buyers will often take more of a view on condition as they are focused on factors such as school catchment areas and larger gardens, but they too will resist the so-so presentation which was a feature of the booming market of years gone by.

In the lettings market there is a fast draining pool of rental properties available and an increased supply of good applicants looking. These are typically would-be first-time buyers that are shelving their plans to purchase whilst waiting to see if Carney’s predictions come true.

Demand is high across the board but is always strong for good-value, one or two bedroom flats with easy commutes. Tenants are offering longer tenancy terms, keen to lock in prices in a rising market. Landlords that are keeping their nerve in the face of the tougher tax restrictions will be benefitting from buoyant rental prices and short void periods throughout 2019.

Streatham and Brixton are now very much part of the landscape of the family rental market, too, as these areas have done a lot in recent years to address the failings of the past. Blessed with good Victorian housing stock, several large parks, improving schools and upgraded leisure facilities this combined with a shift in perceptions and substantial relocation of businesses to London (particularly in the tech and related sector) will ensure continued growth in values.

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