Let’s cut to the chase – the last 14 successive interest rate rises and skyrocketing inflation have had us feeling about as comfortable as being sat on a cactus but the Propertymark pros have sparked some Chinese whispers that we might just be at the start of an improving housing market.
There’s no escaping the fact that inflation and interest rates remain higher than in previous years, however we have reached a point where we are starting to see “very early signs of forward motion again.”
The Current Landscape
Autumn might have brought us darker evenings and colder temperatures already, but things in the property market are looking up. Pass us the pumpkin spice, if good news is set to continue, we’ll have a double shot!
Recent figures have shown that higher interest rates and lower asking prices have encouraged more people to ‘swipe right’ on property viewings and make offers for the first time this year.
The cost of living challenges continue to loom but the property market is gearing up for a new era of possibilities.
What sparked this surge of optimism? The Bank of England’s decision to hit the pause button on those rising interest rates! The big lenders out there such as TSB and Natwest wasted no time, leaping into action with some seriously positive moves. They’re not just updating mortgage terms; they’re stretching them to 40 years and reducing mortgage costs! Why? To create more opportunities, make the property ladder more accessible to everyone, and encourage buyers and sellers to act in the final quarter to continue to build momentum as we enter 2024.
Reflecting on activity over the last month, we are finding that successful sales are still being achieved but, understandably, competitive asking prices are key to generating interest and viewings. Once viewings are undertaken and offers given, sales are being agreed for figures close to the realistic asking prices. Set your asking prices as competitively as you can and don’t look at taking huge offers once you’re correctly priced.
We are still seeing some estate agents giving inflated valuations to secure sales instructions, they then look at tying the vendors into lengthy contracts of 26 weeks in some cases (that’s half a year!). The agent then starts to recommend reducing and eventually selling for potentially below market value.
If you have sought the views of several agents and one agent is suggesting an asking price higher than other agents, be aware of their potential tactics and the pitfalls. If you are tempted to try a higher price, then do so with the agent that is offering you the most comprehensive coverage and service and don’t be afraid to ask for a reduced term on their Sole Agency contract. If they are that confident in their suggested asking price, they should be happy to reduce their contract length.
At Sims Williams, we are confident in the local markets and are already seeing the positive developments impact across our branches. We have offices in Arundel, Bognor-Regis, Chichester and Walberton and cover the beautiful towns and villages across the coastal area between Emsworth and Climping, including parts of the South Downs National Park. In both the sales and rental markets, our teams are working extremely hard; the number of properties listed for sale and those that have been sold, have displayed a consistent trend month after month.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve witnessed a steady decline in interest rates for a number of fixed-rate mortgages, to the point where some fixed mortgage deals dropped below 5% for the first time since June.
Let’s take a moment and remember when the Bank of England decided to freeze the base rate at 5.25%. It wasn’t quite time to throw a street party, however it was most definitely a welcome result, given that this freeze followed 14 successive rises since December 2021.
One of the first considerations people have when there are changes to the base rate is how it could affect their mortgage. This is completely understandable given that a mortgage is one of the largest loans people take out; changes in mortgage costs could have a drastic impact on your cost of living.
In response to the freeze on the base rate, Barclays, Halifax, Nationwide, NatWest, Santander, Virgin Money and HSBC have all reduced their rates within the past couple of weeks. This reduction in mortgage products, paired with the pause of increasing rates should encourage a rise in market confidence.
Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but don’t run off into the sunset just yet. Since the Bank of England initiated its base rate hikes in December 2021, mortgage rates have seen a remarkable surge. At that time, an average two-year fixed deal stood at 2.34%. While we’ve observed a gradual decline in recent months, the same product now carries an average rate of 6.47%.
The market remains volatile and things could change once again come the next meeting with the Bank of England so it’s important to keep your eye on the news, and keep your trusted estate agents and mortgage advisors close to support you on your journey and help secure you the best deal moving forwards.
As of Tuesday 3rd October 2023, the current average mortgage rates are shown below:
Rental market review
The insatiable demand for rented properties continues, along with rising rents.
The chief executive of Propertymark, Nathan Emerson warned that recent figures detailing the number of properties that are available to rent show that it’s “drastically below what is needed to keep up with current market demand”.
Our lettings team have been working extremely hard and have recently let some fabulous properties. We are looking to add to our listings and require more similar properties. Have a look here at some examples.
For advice on potential opportunities, please contact your local Sims Williams office for independent, expert advice. We can point new landlords in the right direction about where to buy and also discuss the different management options available. Even experienced landlords need to be informed on upcoming changes in legislation and we are happy to answer any questions. Get in touch with the lettings team here.
The Road Ahead
The last few months really have been a ‘mixed bag’ with a traditionally quiet August being one of the busiest months of our year. September, by contrast is a typically busy month once the schools are back, but was particularly quiet this year. There really is no predicting this market but one thing is for sure, the encouraging news on inflation and falling mortgage rates comes as a welcome relief following a sustained period of rate increases.
With major lenders all now offering 5 year fixed rates under 5% it begs the question are we in for a rate war between lenders all trying to attract business following a slow down in mortgage sign ups? We can only hope so!
As for the rest of 2023, as stated before, there really is no predicting what will happen but one thing is for sure – price is key!
For expert advice on all things property or for a free no obligation market appraisal, do contact your local Sims Williams office. We are here to guide you through every step of your journey, providing professional advice, support and guidance you can trust.