Nick Churton of Mayfair Office reviews the property year and looks forward to a steadier 2011.
Overall, 2010 has been an annus mediocris for estate agents. Or to use more contemporary cliché it has been a year of two halves.
The first six months were rather good with the property market getting into its stride early in the New Year. In retrospect it looks as if all those people frustrated by the previous two or three years of stagnated market just wanted to get on and move. So, for the optimistic at least, it seemed for a while that the market was on its way back. This certainly included sellers who saw for the first time in years a market that was offering real choice and opportunity. Prices were also making gains and in some areas clawing their way back to 2007 levels. This came as good news for sellers who quickly saw the chance to extract a little more from their sale.
But – and there is always a but in property – halfway through the year the mood changed. A negative pall hung over everything. Rather like the cloud of ash from that unpronounceable Icelandic volcano. Perhaps it was thought of a general election. Perhaps it was the relentless news of austerity, cutbacks and public sector layoffs. Perhaps everyone just wanted to think about the summer holidays or the World Cup. Perhaps they just grew tired. Certainly they grew tired of the lack of mortgage funds and the lack of will on the part of lenders to provide any. The lenders still say they will lend but in many cases the over-harsh lending criteria has made buying difficult for anyone without cash or a very substantial deposit and gold plated job prospects. So now we are left at the end of the year with the lowest mortgage lending on record and much of the country snowed in. Not such a good end to a property year that had started so well.
So the big question now is what will happen next year? It is a hard one to call. The snow will clear but the austerity and the mortgage problems won’t melt away quite so quickly. Also, all those over-optimistic sellers will have to re-adjust their price expectations as the market settles once again. But with the UK slowly climbing out of the economic crisis there are two things for sure next year. The British public will be anxiously looking forward to the royal wedding in April and to a steadily improving property market.