Despite the capital’s muted house market, the need to move for more space, a bigger garden or to be in the catchment area for the right school is still driving sales in the family-orientated Nappy Valley.
Members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors may be at their most gloomy since 1999 – believing the lack of clarity around the UK’s departure from the European Union will lead to flat or falling transaction levels – but there is a silver lining.
Mortgage finance is available. Fears of a fragile economy have kept interest rates low. In fact, for those with a deposit there are some mortgage deals to be snapped up.
“Brexit has kept rates lower than they may have been otherwise,” says Andrew Montlake of broker Coreco. “The Bank of England would probably have looked to increase rates a little further if the uncertainty generated by Brexit had not continued.”
Dilpreet Bhagarth, mortgage expert at online broker Trussle, agrees: “Instead of the more usual two-year fixed deals, many homeowners are considering a longer five-year fixed deal for extra peace of mind. Lenders know this and have responded by introducing some highly competitive rates.”
Lloyds Bank is offering customers a 100% mortgage if the borrower’s parents open a linked savings account and deposit the equivalent of 10% of the purchase price. In short, it’s getting easier for a prospective buyer to borrow.
However, as a seller you must also check in with your lender or mortgage broker. “Let them know you’re considering selling, and consult your contract to find out if there are any penalties for paying back your mortgage before the terms end,” says Portico’s Vatche Cherchian.
So, if you have to sell what can you do to get that all-important asking price – or more?
In uncertain times vendors often use estate agents who have had a local high street presence for generations. Although online estate agents offer a far lower fee, some of the traditional brands, Rampton Baseley for example, reported record sales for certain months last year as people turned to the familiar.
Beyond the brand, find an agent you have a genuine rapport with who will help during this testing time.
Should a deal be agreed on March 29th then the pent-up desire to move house may be released and the market could be flooded with properties in May.
Therefore, make sure you have an agent who can list your home quickly and uses both Rightmove and Zoopla (or its sister portal, Prime Location) to reach the biggest audiences.
Austen Thorogood of the estate agent John Thorogood, says phone calls, texts and email alerts to a database of interested buyers will start as soon as they are appointed. Photos and floor plans are uploaded within one to two days – as long as the property is ready.
It’s taken a few years for vendors’ asking price expectations to adjust in line with the slowing market.
Now is not the time to try your luck with a price higher than the valuation. Wannabe homeowners know there are bargains to be had and are expecting value for money.
ASK THE EXPERT
Is it the right time to buy my first home?
I have to help first-time buyers assess whether their finances stack up and they are ready to take on the commitment of buying a home. Is it the right point in their life?
How can I increase my deposit for a house?
For buyers trying to increase their deposit over the next few years I would not recommend stocks and shares. It’s not worth the risk. The safest thing is to look to a conservative bond portfolio. Bonds are the less glamorous side-kick of shares but produce returns of 4% and are easy to get out of.
What about a buy-to-let?
Many downsizers will sell the family home, release a lot of equity and consider a buy-to-let investment. I would ask, what do you know about the area, are you able to manage or collect rent yourself, what yield will the property produce?
How is the investments market?
The stock market can price in good news or bad but it can’t price in uncertainty. Defensive stocks such as healthcare companies are viewed as a good long-term bet as people will always need medicine but I think tech share prices have further to fall. My advice is sometimes doing nothing is good advice.
Source: Killik & Co
“If your property sits on Rightmove for too long you’ll have to bring the price down. The inference is that there is something wrong with it when actually all that’s wrong is the price,” explains Patrick Rampton of Rampton Baseley.
Despite a quiet market overall there are certain streets in south west London where open days and sealed bids are underway. John Thorogood organises targeted launch days, grouping viewings together to keep disruption to a minimum.
Savvy buyers can see through a fresh coat of paint to the real problems. Spend money on replacing worn out window frames and upgrading dated fixtures and features.
“Staging your home is a crucial part of the sales process. A home that looks its best is far more likely to sell,” says Cherchian. Some agents such as Portico offer the services of a stylist for one-day, before sending in a professional photographer.
GOODBYE WINTER, HELLO SPRING! PREPARE FOR THE CHANGE OF SEASON WITH THESE ESSENTIAL MAINTENANCE JOBS
•Inspect your roof and guttering after the heavy rains and winds of winter
•High-pressure cleaning on drives, paths, patios and decking clears away the moss so everything looks good for that first BBQ of spring
•It’s always good practice to check smoke alarm batteries.
Charlie Streatfield of Marsh & Parsons emphasises the importance of de-cluttering. “It will not only help viewers see your property in its best light, it will also make your moving process easier.”
“Don’t overcrowd rooms with bulky furniture as this will make them look smaller,” he says, “and messy coffee tables and kitchen counters will give an impression of limited storage.”
If your home isn’t attracting any reasonable offers, respond quickly. Don’t let it languish on the market for months as it will devalue the property.
Cut the price or take it off the market and wait until demand returns.
COUNTING THE COST OF MOVING
Stamp duty and Brexit uncertainty has made families think twice about moving at all.
Oliver Fripp, Pre-Contract Manager and Project Co-ordinator at ATP Renovation, puts it in perspective: “Why move from somewhere with excellent amenities and schools when you can improve instead?” They have noticed a big increase in demand for certain home refurbishments. “More and more home owners are discovering the benefits of adding a kitchen extension to their properties to acquire much-needed extra space.”
Warren Luke of MULTIServe Property Maintenance, agrees. “People are upgrading their kitchen most commonly, rather than say, the bathrooms. Plus they’re doing a lot of re-decoration throughout the house, which eventually gives you a new home,” he says.
For Rory Gordon, founder of Good London Builders, George Osborne’s 2014 hike in stamp duty is the biggest factor for people staying put. “In some parts of south west London a four or five-bedroom family home can cost as much as £2million and with that comes a £150,000 stamp duty bill,” he says. “You can create a lot of space for that payout.”
Converting an attic of roughly 269 sq ft will add around £208,000 to the average house price in London, while a rear extension (161 sq ft) is worth £124,000 according to research by online architects and designers Resi (resi.co.uk).
Gordon puts the cost of an attic conversion at around £50,000 to £70,000, and a kitchen extension comprising side return and rear addition at £80,000 to £90,000, including VAT and the new kitchen cabinets.