What happened to the spring market?

Flowers-on-window---Website

There used to be a buzz at the start of each year, with property owners sprucing up their home, redecorating, replanting the gardens and window boxes, and estate agents rubbing their hands in anticipation for the hive of activity that was the spring market.

Traditionally the spring market was the best time to sell, with the greatest number of buyers looking and the highest prices achieved. Some would agree that this was because of the improved weather, the blossom on the trees and the longer days. In reality and especially in London, the increased activity also has a lot to do with city bonuses! Historically, many financial institutions told staff their bonuses in mid-February and whilst these weren’t paid until the end of the financial year, a spending spree would ensue from March onwards.

Whilst the banking industry continues its recovery following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, data shows that while the flow of deals is rising, there is no indication that bonuses will start to materially drive property demand in the immediate future. This is due to a pervading mood of market uncertainty as well as fundamental changes in the banking sector and I suspect primarily because of the way bonuses are now paid.

Pre the financial crash most bonuses were generous and normally paid in cash, today they are often paid in stock options.

“The banking industry is finding a new normal and the heady days of old are, in most cases, a distant memory,” said Nick Miller, head of corporate and institutional banking at executive recruitment company Odgers Berndtson. “Bonuses are down 10% to 15% across the board and the criteria for getting them have become tougher. Furthermore, promotions to managing director level are happening significantly later in people’s career.” The slowdown has also been magnified by banks reducing headcount and winding down fixed income, currencies and commodity operations, Miller added.

There has been little sign of any bonus activity this year and what spring market there has been was driven by the introduction of the SDLT 3% surcharge for second homes, which came into effect on 1st April 2016. I think that the flurry pre 1st April will be the full extent of this year’s spring market. It hasn’t been long since the deadline and there has been a notable change in activity levels. I suspect that this will still continue until after the London Mayoral Election and the EU Referendum results, regardless of how warm the weather might be in the coming months.

A ‘plaque’ on both your houses

Blue plaque - Neville Chamberlain

When Baroness Thatcher’s former residence on Chester Square in Belgravia was put on the market some reports suggested that it would generate significant interest from foreign purchasers attracted to the thought of owning such a ‘trophy’ asset and a piece of history. As a result, we were asked whether a premium is placed on a property of historical significance, or homes of a person of public interest where blue plaques are in place.

In my opinion the answer is no, except perhaps in the rarest of cases.

In a marketplace where information has become much more freely available, purchasers are now far more well-informed and discerning. Publicly available information on historic sales and average price/square foot in an area means that if the seller expects their property to sell for a premium, there needs to be a significant and intrinsic value to differentiate it from the competition. This could be in the shape of a large roof terrace, extraordinary views, exceptional ceiling heights, or a concierge service operated by a nearby high-end hotel. A blue plaque is unlikely to command the same weight or premium as the property’s characteristics or location. English Heritage even states that there is no firm evidence to suggest that a plaque will add to the value of a property and the presence of a plaque does not offer a building any legal protection where no listing exists.

What is more likely is that having a blue plaque will increase the level of interest in a property, generate more viewings and potentially achieve a quicker sale. Although, this depends to some extent on who the former resident was, Winston Churchill and Baroness Thatcher for instance, I am sure would generate more interest than Harry Beck (creator of the schematic Tube map!). Fundamentally, the plaque itself does not add anything tangible to the property and as such should never be considered as a reason to add value. As an advisor I would always discourage a buyer from paying a premium for a property with a plaque as, for the purpose of re-sale, one cannot assume that the next buyer will feel the same way.

TBS in The Times > The new, unexpected commuter hotspots

The new, unexpected commuter hotspots.

People who work in London are buying in York. David Prosser reports on the latest trend in the quest for affordable homes…
For commuters looking for a family home within easy reach of their workplace, choosing where to live is difficult. On the one hand, no one wants a long commute; on the other, house prices out of town can fall dramatically — a recent Halifax survey found that putting up with an hour-long journey into London, for example, could save £450,000 on the cost of a family home. Then there are all the other lifestyle factors to take into consideration.

Read the full article for Bobby Hall‘s insight on Whitchurch, Hampshire:
The new, unexpected commuter hotspots | The Times

TBS in Homes & Property > South Oxfordshire named Britain’s top spot to live: four of the best villages for London commuters

South Oxfordshire named Britain’s top spot to live: four of the best villages for London commuters between Reading and Oxford.

Why was this rolling stretch of English countryside, less than an hour from London, voted Britain’s finest rural location? It’s down to good local schools, pretty hamlets and perfect village pubs.
Up to 50,000 Londoners will quit the city this year to become countryside commuters and if you are considering joining their ranks, you probably ought to get to know South Oxfordshire.

Read the full article for Nick Mead‘s insights on village life in Great Milton, South Oxfordshire:
South Oxfordshire named Britain’s top spot to live: four of the best villages for London commuters between Reading and Oxford | Homes & Property

TBS in Country Life > New build: London property guide

New build: London property guide.

There are currently 75,299 new developments in the pipeline for London. Are they wise buys? Is this all sustainable?
New build London property developments continue to spring up all over town – but are they wise buys? Will they hold their value?
Arabella Youens talks to three London property experts…

Read the full article for Jonathan Mount‘s insights on the new build property market:
New build: London property guide | Country Life

TBS in The Sunday Times > Superfast broadband arrives in the Cotswolds

Superfast broadband arrives in the Cotswolds.

Just in case you’re ever parachuted into a dinner party in the Cotswolds — placed between Kate, Damien and the bloke from Blur who does the cheese — and you’re worried about how to chip in to the conversation, here is some advice. Forget the merry quip about Jeremy Clarkson looking for a job at the car wash, and the rumour about Johnny Depp being spotted househunting in Chipping Campden. The subject you need to mention to get yourself on side with the A-listers in the land of honey-coloured homes is superfast broadband.

Read the full article for Claire Owen‘s insight on Cotswolds connectivity:
Superfast broadband arrives in the Cotswolds | The Sunday Times