End of year review: Lucy Blythe of Savills discusses the West Midlands property market
In the first of our series of interviews looking back the property market in 2014, Lucy Blythe of Savills in Telford tells us about this year's most prominent trends and discusses her expectations for the next 12 months.
How has the property market been in the West Midlands this year?
2014 has been a year of two halves, with a very positive start and price rises in the mid market being felt in the first six months. The second half of the year has been more challenging with the impact of the Mortgage Market Review, the threat of a mansion tax and the upcoming general election giving cause for hesitation. Having said that, we are ending the year much busier than we would normally expect to and price is still the key to a successful sale.
Please tell us about some of the most prominent market trends of 2014
We have seen more buyers looking to return to their roots be it from abroad or London and the south. The gap between the city and country has never been greater and with the London market returning to more normal market conditions, we have started to see buyers moving north. We have also seen financially sound buyers purchasing before they sell their existing home.
Has a shortage in the supply of quality homes been the biggest issue facing agents this year?
Not in this part of the world - there are plenty of houses on the market. The biggest issue that we are facing is making sure that instructions are priced to attract interest. Buyers now search for a home in a totally different way than they did 20 years ago. Most searching is done online and therefore pricing correctly is more important than ever. It is very easy for a buyer to dismiss a property based on price rather than picking up the phone and speaking to the agent – and this makes our job more difficult.
Should prospective sellers move now or wait until the spring?
This depends entirely on individual circumstances and urgency to sell, but in my experience the more time sellers gives themselves to market their homes the better chance they have of achieving their goals.
What do you expect to see happen in the property market over the next 12 months?
The general election could be a distraction in the traditionally busy spring months, so we are anticipating an earlier market in 2015. The top end of the market may remain fairly static until the election, but is likely to pick up afterwards in the event of no mansion tax.
Ahead of the election next May, what policies would you like to see brought in to help the industry?
A reduction in stamp duty at all levels would certainly help the industry. Feedback from buyers tells us that the cost of moving impacts on affordability. A reduction in this cost would get more people moving, with more potentially being spent on decorating, home improvements and furniture. We have seen houses with repair liabilities remain on the market for longer than those in good order, which implies that many buyers do not have the funds to take on renovation projects.