1. CHRISTMAS IS COMING
The combination of Christmas — only 76 shopping days left — and the looming general election could be good news for buyers. “This is a good time to buy because it isn’t considered the best time to buy,” says Charles Peerless, director at Winkworth’s West End office. “Between now and January you are not following the herd, so can almost pick your offer.”
So, you might have to view a house in gloomy light, with a scrubby-looking garden, but at least you know what you are really getting.
Meanwhile, the propect of next year’s general election is making both buyers and sellers sit on their hands, anxious about the outcome. Will the Tories stay in power, or will Labour sweep the board? And, crucially for owners of more expensive London property, will whoever wins introduce some sort of mansion tax?
Uncertainty about the market’s future is already being felt — estate agent Hamptons International says it expects to see transactions fall back between 10 and 20 per cent in the six months immediately up to the vote next May, and has already cut its forecast for house prices in half, predicting growth will slow to three per cent next year.
London estate agency Douglas & Gordon also predicts slower price growth in the wake of the election. “The trouble with this election is that there’s more at stake than there has been for quite some time,” says the firm’s executive director, Ed Mead. And when sellers are not feeling bullish, it can be a good time for buyers to strike.
2. DEVELOPERS HAVE SALES BARGAINS
For many house builders, the financial year ends on December 31, setting a deadline for clearing their books — and making now a good time to pick up a bargain new build.
“Developers are surprisingly open to offers to close the sales book in a building and move on,” says Justin Gaze, head of residential development at Knight Frank.
However, while Bob Weston, chairman of Weston Homes, agrees, he adds: “Right now, everybody’s had a fantastic time on sales reservations, so they’re not going to be so tempted.”
At St Andrew’s Park in Uxbridge, for example, by Persimmon Homes, you can buy a three-bedroom semi-detached house off-plan for £499,950 and get £1,000 towards stamp duty, £250 towards legal fees and £250 towards brokers’ fees for one more week, as it’s the last plot in Phase Two of the development.
Up the road in Northwood at Taylor Wimpey’s Kings Acre development, there are off-radar opportunities for buyers who ask. “We do have a couple of plots where I can be a little more generous because of the stage of build,” says the site’s sales office.
Its saleswoman says plot 13, scheduled to be The Pembroke, a five-bedroom detached property on sale for a headline price of £1,575,000, is open to negotiation.
3. THE HIGH-END PROPERTY POOL
The mere suggestion of mansion tax sends shockwaves through the upper echelons of the capital’s housing market. Added to the stamp duty rise to seven per cent for properties over £2 million since 2012, there are powerful reasons why the market between £2 million and £2.5 million is quiet.
“It’s a real buying opportunity,” says property consultant Alex Stroud. “Once you accept you are paying that extra bit of stamp duty, you can begin to negotiate the price down.
“Don’t be scared to look at something for £2.4 million and then make an offer for £2.2 million.” He cites a flat he bought for a client three weeks ago for £2.15 million, which he thinks would have been worth £2.4 million if openly marketed.
Scratch the surface and there are numerous examples of prices above £2 million “sticking.”
According to exclusive Homesearch company data, four per cent of properties in London have been on the market for more than six months, of which the largest percentage is at the upper end above £2 million. Newly refurbished 2 Radnor Place on the Hyde Park Estate, for example, came to the market a year ago at £5.5 million. It has since been reduced in price twice, and is now for sale for £4.95 million.