Interest in homes now 'phenomenal'
MORE homes on the market, more viewings, more sales – and then it snows!
But the "white stuff" is no more than a temporary irritant to a regional property market that's surprising everyone with its level of activity this year.
One local agent reports six properties sold within 48 hours of hitting the market, while another says the volume of business has "genuinely surprised" him, even though he was expecting a busier January than the pre-Christmas period.
And further signs of the growing confidence in the housing market were reported this week by one of the UK's biggest property search websites, which said that the number of new year house sellers had reached its highest level since 2008.
Rightmove said that traffic to its website also soared by 27 per cent in the first two weeks of 2013.
David Curwen, a director of regional estate agency Hunters, which has an offices in Sutton Coldfield, Tamworth and Lichfield, said that interest in what he described as "well-priced properties" had been "phenomenal" in recent weeks.
"It remains a buyers' market – but those buyers have less choice than they had in the last recession," he explained. "Therefore, when a property in good condition that is realistically priced comes onto the market, the interest is phenomenal.
"That's the reason we have sold six homes within 48 hours of first marketing since the New Year from one branch alone."
And the branch manager at Dixons Estate Agents in Great Barr said that business was certainly brisker than before Christmas – and better than a year ago.
"We have had more instructions and there are genuine buyers out there, so properties are selling, some within days," said Andy Bowgen.
Over in Walsall, branch manager Scott Southall at the Home Point Estate Agency said that they had won similar instructions from new vendors in the opening weeks of the year compared with a year ago – but that they had gained more sales.
"The market is such that realistically-priced homes are selling well," he said. "We are being very pro-active to achieve sales and it is getting results."
And it looks as though the choice for the current crop of would-be home buyers is about to widen, with the Rightmove figures showing that more than 11,000 new properties have been coming on the market each week this month, showing an increase of more than a fifth (22 per cent) compared with a year ago.
While the rate of new property listings is the highest for a January since 2008, the latest figure is still around a third lower than it was five years ago, before the full impact of the credit crunch.
However, it marks a "clear indication of improving confidence," and suggests that prices and sales will increase this year, the website said.
Average asking prices increased by 0.2 per cent month-on-month in January across England and Wales to reach £229,429, representing a 2.4 per cent annual increase.
The biggest hikes were seen in London, where the strength of the property market amid significant interest from overseas buyers has consistently outperformed the rest of the country. Asking prices grew by 3.6 per cent month-on-month in London to reach £480,890 – making them 9.7 per cent higher than a year earlier.
Wales saw the biggest month-on-month fall, with a 3.5 per cent drop taking average asking prices to £153,649.
Miles Shipside, director of Rightmove, said: "With new seller prices up by 2.4 per cent year-on-year, more sellers coming to market, and a jump in website traffic, early indicators offer reasons to be confident that both prices and transaction numbers will see a modest rise in 2013."
The website said its own research had shown that seven out of 10 people planning to put their property on the market in the next year would be moving for discretionary reasons rather than 'forced sales' due to debt or divorce.
Mr Shipside said: "After five years of putting their lives and moves on hold with their spare space shrinking around them, it looks like some of the pent-up demand to move is breaking out."
Lenders and surveyors have also predicted sales pick-ups amid signs that the mortgage market has improved in recent months.
Mortgage approvals to home buyers have been climbing and the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) also reported last week that it has seen an uplift in lending to first-time buyers.
Much of the uplift has been put down to a Government scheme introduced in August to boost lending by giving lenders access to cheap finance. Lenders have been slashing their rates, while the number of the mortgages on the market has also increased since the Funding for Lending scheme started.