Sunday, June 1, 2008

Prices falling or floating?

If you want to know what’s really happening to house prices do you read the property press, watch the news on TV, ask the Nationwide Building Society, ask your mate down the road or ask an estate agent? I’d suggest that the latter is a good idea but you can’t get much more accurate than H M Land Registry. This is where all property transactions are recorded including the actual sale price. This information has been available in the public domain since 1st January 2005 so there are a number of websites that publish this for everyone to look up for free (www.nethouseprices.com www.mouseprice.com )

If your someone who subscribes to the newspaper or TV media for finding out about the value of your biggest asset then of late you will have the impression that house prices are in free fall and seen figures of anything between 10% and 40% reductions bandied about to everyone’s horror.

The latest Land Registry figures make interesting reading and, in my opinion, show an underlying trend that may not be good news for people trying to sell their property. I can recall from the last market ‘blip’ in 1988 – which lingered until about 1992 – that human nature made everyone resistant to reducing the price of their property. The attitude was “if I have to take £x then I’m not moving!”

The Land Registry press release is reproduced in part below:

Annual house prices in England and Wales decreased from 3.6 per cent in March to 2.7 per cent in April, taking the average to £183,626, according to the latest figures from Land Registry. This is the eighth consecutive fall in the annual rate of growth.
The monthly change for April is -0.2 per cent. The volume of transactions was also down from the same period last year, with an average of 72,479 per month between November 2007 to February 2008, compared with 103,141 per month from October 2006 to January 2007.
The falls in value indicated are relatively minor, in the great scheme of things. What is really worrying is the dramatic fall in transactions and I think this is down to resistance by home sellers to accept that the market has changed. As I mentioned above we could now be experiencing sellers deciding to stay put rather than accept a lower figure. This means that only those sellers who are really motivated to move are marketing their property and marketing at realistic prices that achieve sales.
I would like to encourage sellers, as I did back in the late ‘80’s, to get out and about actually viewing properties to see what is available and at what figure. Asking prices are very much negotiable and estate agents now need to sharpen their skills as ‘middlemen’ to bring buyers and sellers together and actually ‘negotiate’ a deal.
Everyone sitting at home and not viewing because they haven’t sold their own isn’t actually making anything happen. I’ve got vendors who are resistant to taking viewings from people who are not in a position to buy or who haven’t placed their own home on the market. Again this is short sighted as the ‘waste of time’ viewer may have a property in a saleable area with plenty of equity that they could market at a really keen price. What time is being wasted? Not seeing any viewers is the real waste of time.
Advice from here on? If you are selling then revisit your asking price with your agent and make sure it really is where it should be in today’s market. If you are thinking about buying then get out there! This is probably your best opportunity in the last 10 years to negotiate a really good deal.
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