Caesar & Howie – Market Report

House market report We realise how the trying times in the property market are affecting everyone in your position. It is very difficult trying to sell houses at the moment. The house market is often in the media spotlight and hardly a day goes by without some report or other making this or that prediction. Some of these reports are based on National UK data and may have limited application to the local market. I thought it might be helpful to pass on to you the considered view of our partnership on what we think is happening – and how things might develop in the future. Current Sales The first thing to note is that there has indeed been a big slump in the market in the Central Belt this year. Some agents and organisations are stating sales are down we understand by over 60%. Our own figures show a slump of 31% – so we seem to be doing better than many but these are still unprecedented drops. Nothing like this has been seen in Scotland before. Number of Buyers The reason for the slump is very clear however – it has been wholly caused by the “credit crunch” which has severely limited the ability of buyers to get mortgage funding. We have noticed no lack of willingness in the hundreds of potential buyers for whom we act to go ahead and buy – but many have been frustrated by not being able to get enough of a mortgage. Many of these buyers we believe will come back into the market when they can. Prices Currently If anything we think prices are certainly not going up (despite some earlier newspaper reports) and at best they are stable or trending down. ESPC is intimating their figures show a drop year on year of 6.5%. Our own records suggest that that is probably about the biggest fall we have seen. Will prices fall badly? The truth is we do not really know. Our feeling is that prices in the central belt will probably not fall very dramatically provided that there are no mass job losses in the region. We think that the will to buy is still there and there is pent up buying demand which has been held back by lack of mortgage availability and also by inability to sell. When buyers feel more secure and can get the money – they will come back into the market. Where there may be bigger price falls might be in particular areas where there is clearly oversupply. For example some parts of Edinburgh and Leith have a huge number of modern flats available with many fewer buyers in that sector than was expected. Is there any positive news? Well actually there is a lot of positive news – all of which has started to come out in the last few weeks only.

  • Mortgage rates have come down to pre credit crunch levels
  • Mortgage availability has dramatically improved – even 95% loans are back
  • Stamp duty has been cut for house purchases up to £175,000
  • Government help is available more quickly for mortgage arrears
  • Further mortgage rate falls are predicted in the future

We believe all these factors coming together are going to ensure buying demand picks up again. Whether it all starts to move again quickly or gently and when exactly we see the effects, we do not know – but buyers will be back. The current market turmoil is unprecedented but people still need homes to live in. We do not believe most families would be happy to rent all their lives – and indeed rental property is quite limited in type in most areas. What can sellers do to help? We think there are two key issues here in this market. The first is sensible pricing in accordance with what market information tells us. The days of getting huge “over the asking” prices have gone for the moment. Be realistic and remember if you hope to trade up in the market you need only offer a realistic price also when buying. The second main thing sellers can do to help themselves is to be patient. Sales are taking a lot longer across the board and sellers have to “go with the flow” on this. The market is still operating – it is far from being completely dead – but buyers are not around in volume. But remember you only need one buyer for your house, not five or six and through time that buyer will turn up and buy the house if it suits requirements and is reasonably priced. What’s the longer term outlook for houses? Well so many articles are written about house prices it is easy to become obsessed by price movements. The truth is over 95% of our buying clients buy a house suitable for them and their families and not just as an investment. Also most families stay in houses for several years – which means short term house price movements don’t effect them. Even now if prices are down by a few percent many people have been in houses for a good number of years and will have the benefit of several years price increases when their sale comes through. Typically if someone bought a house a dozen or so years ago the value may have gone up by as much as 300%, so a shading of the price on sale of a few percent from last years level is not great but not disastrous either. Our view at Caesar and Howie is that at some stage house prices must start to trend up again in Scotland for various reasons:-

  • Increasing population
  • Increasing immigration (in particular Polish)
  • Increasing longevity
  • Social change creating more family units
  • Reduction in new building this year will cause a future supply shortage
  • The economic cycle will move back to more growth in the future

All of these issues mean increased demand for housing over time – which must logically mean increasing prices over time. Consequently in the longer term we still see houses as a good investment. Whilst we recognise that investment issues play only a small part in families’ house buying plans – it is perhaps comforting to know that in the long term buying a house will prove to be worth it financially as well as getting your own roof over the family’s head. If we might take a “weatherman’s” view of the market I think we’d probably be saying something like “still pretty wet and rainy but conditions will improve in time and some gentle sunshine should arrive eventually in most areas”. The difficulty we have is predicting the timing of the improvement. Some commentators say it has already started, some say it will be next spring some say even later. We just do not know – which is why for now patience and realism is perhaps the best approach.