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Property market patterns – is there a good time to buy?

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Knight Frank
London and Country specialist property buying agents
18 May 2016  |   Philip Eastwood

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In my experience the best time to buy property in prime central London tends to be when the market is at its quietist and competition is low, in other words either side of Christmas. The sentiment amongst sellers changes in the winter months. The weather is grim, the days are short, viewings are down and vendor’s expectations are lower all of which makes for an opportunity to secure a better deal for a buyer (and conversely a poor time to sell). In our experience approximately 20% more buyers register their interest for every property that comes on in spring when compared to the winter months.

However, despite the seasonal variations in the market that you would expect to witness year in year out, I think that one would be hard pressed to find a pattern in the market over recent years. There have been huge changes to taxation as well as other significant political events which have had an enormous impact on the property market in London. To name a few, we have had a General Election, two significant changes in Stamp Duty Land Tax, a Scottish Referendum and the EU Referendum to come this year. All of these events in some way shape or form have led to a “wait and see” approach from buyers and sellers alike which have in turn caused fluctuations in market activity that one would not have traditionally expected to see.

Announcements at the Chancellor’s Budgets and Autumn Statements over recent years have also often been followed by consultation periods during which proposed changes to property taxation are discussed. Again, this inevitably leaves the market in a state of flux with nobody willing to do anything until clarity has been restored. The most recent of these was the December 2015 Autumn Statement which announced an additional rate of 3% Stamp Duty levied on buy-to-let and second homes from 1 April 2016. The impact of this particular change was an enormous flurry of activity in the first quarter of 2016 as buyers rushed to complete purchases prior to this deadline. There has been a huge drop in the number of transactions seen following this deadline and prior to the EU Referendum which is inevitably causing a huge slow-down in activity in the property market.

The various changes discussed above have fallen throughout the year; Autumn Statements and Budgets in April and December annually; Scottish Referendum in September 2014; General Election in July 2015; EU Referendum in June 2016. In other words finding a pattern in the property market particularly in prime central London in the past three to four years would be very difficult.

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