Every time there is the remotest blip in the property market, the fortune tellers of doom come out from their caves to predict a housing market crash. And know what? It becomes an almost self-fulfilling prophecy because the media becomes awash with graphs depicting how house prices might fall, how buyer interest might drop off, how tumbleweed might blow across the face of every property in the land that is up for sale … and the public seems to lap it up.
Everyone stay indoors and accept that you will be stuck in your current home for forty years at least…
In that first paragraph of my little rant, though, there is an important message to bear in mind. The word “might”. House prices “might” fall. The property market “might” slow down. We “might” all be run over by a London bus next week …
No, really, I mean it: who actually knows what is going to happen?
Nobody does. If they did, then there wouldn’t have been warning lights over the housing market at the outbreak of the pandemic. People wouldn’t have been advising homeowners that the market was about to dive, that it would stall until well after the word “Covid” was a mere memory. But look what happened: it all went mad. People were falling over their PPE’d selves to buy whatever they could, and prices shot through the roof!
When we had the Credit Crunch, there was a University lecturer (or professor, or some such) who appeared on national news programmes saying that we were about to fall into the bottomless abyss of poverty, so EVERYBODY should sell their homes NOW!
Nobody, once (except me, screaming at my TV), asked him who EVERYBODY would sell their homes to if EVERYBODY was selling up!
And at the beginning of this supposed crisis, I can see it all happening again.
I have seen predictions that house prices will fall by 35 %. If that is true (which I seriously doubt), then it’s big news for some people. But it’s not fatal. In fact, some people might see it as a good thing. First time buyers, surely, won’t be too displeased if they can afford a better starter home? And those who are buying and selling will lose on the one hand because their property is worth less, but will gain on the other because their new dream home is closer to their reach.
I accept that those who are only selling, private landlords, people moving into nursing homes, beneficiaries of deceased estates, would find that they don’t realise as much as they might have been hoping for out of their sale. But, please, comfort yourselves with the simple and joyous fact that you have made a small fortune out of the property market over the last few years and you’re probably well up on what you paid for the property in the first place. Can you say the same about your next most expensive purchase, your car? Or that luxury holiday you paid thousands for? Is that now worth more than it was? No! Of course not! Other than a few photographs, a fading sun tan, and that tummy that’s still a little bit dicky, it’s not worth anything at all!
A property “expert” recently wrote that EVERYBODY thinking about moving house should wait until next year (in fairness to him, as I don’t want to offend anyone, I don’t actually think that’s what he meant, but the newspaper’s headline writers went for that approach, so he has, for the purposes of this piece, inadvertently become fair game in my eyes even though he is probably a very nice chap with his heart in the right place).
That might (there’s that word again) be sound advice for people who don’t want or need to move before 2024, but it’s not a lot of use for those who do. And, remember, there are always going to be people who need to move: job changes, financial issues, lottery wins, matrimonial problems, death, illness, practicality, growing or shrinking families … the list is LITERALLY ENDLESS! Actually, no it’s not, but I couldn’t resist poking fun at anyone who uses the word “literally” in completely the wrong context.
So there will always be a property market. Otherwise, with all the “booms” and “busts” we’ve had, I would have been in and out of employment over recent years more times than we’ve had a new Housing Minister.
I note that some of my friends at RICS have done what the RICS does: jumped on the doom-wagon, suggesting that prices are going to crash due to the rising interest rates, and the unavailability of finance. Hence, we’ll be downvaluing everything we see. This, again, though, is a bit of a self-satisfying, er I mean, self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, who controls house prices to a greater degree? Is it vendors? Buyers? Estate agents? Or is it the surveyors whose opinions make a difference on whether a sale will go through or not, and whether or not someone can get a mortgage?
Oh, and haven’t you read? Some interest rates are actually falling. I wonder if all the lenders have realised that if they make their mortgage products unaffordable, or too difficult to obtain, that they might, actually, not get very much business. “New Customers Only”. Oh. There aren’t any.
In conclusion, because I’ve wittered on for long enough, and because – despite everything you might be reading in your morning papers and be seeing on GBTV, or whatever it’s called – I have work to do, including a couple of property deals to tie up, and some very nice new instructions (and, dare I say it, seemingly very saleable) to process.
If you have been adversely affected by any bad press you have read or seen about property and the housing market, I advise you to stop looking at it, get on with your lives, and seek out an estate agent who has been in the business long enough to not be hitting the panic button.
Not yet, anyway.
Martin Haigh, 9th February 2023.