Winter 2011 Market Report

Thursday, February 10, 2011 by Douglas And Gordon

Winter 2010

2010 went out like a bit of a damp squib. Both the sales and lettings market saw growth throughout the year as a whole with properties increasing in value by an average of 11.5% and lettings average prices increasing by just under 16% in the year as a whole. However, both markets saw very little movement in the second six months of the year with sales only recording an increase of 1.7% and lettings 3.1%.

The main change in the sales market in the final quarter of 2010 was not in the area of values – these actually crept ahead by just over 1% but there was a very significant downturn in volumes – sales were down 42% on volumes in 2009. This is perhaps not surprising in the wake of the coalition government’s autumn budget, expenditure cuts and tax increases. As so often happens, London vendors and buyers seem to have adopted a “wait and see” policy with the number of applicants also down by nearly 8% year on year from a fairly low base.

Again, quite understandably, activity has been transferred into the lettings market where the number of lets was up by just under 7% year on year, though even in this market, the number of applicants was also down by just over 8%. The shortage of stock in the lettings market is 20% lower than it was a year ago, so lack of property generally (and rather a lot of snow!), has caused a severe slowdown at the end of the year. 

Outlook 2011

Much will of course depend upon how the economy performs and whether we see growth to counteract the cuts in public expenditure. The likelihood is that “wait and see” will be the predominant mood for the first few months but at the very top end, the spectre of the stamp duty increase in April may stimulate demand. At all levels of the market, there will be sensitivity to the prospect of interest rate increases, so we would expect a number of buyers to “jump in” before rises take effect. The key component, therefore, will be the amount of stock - unless this increases, we might all be surprised by the level of price increases. On balance, over the year, we predict an increase of 5% but this may prove to be conservative.

On the lettings side, we start from a position of almost a crisis in supply. As there will be no dramatic increase in the availability of mortgage finance, demand at the lower level will push rental levels up for sure. Provided that the government does not indulge in gratuitous “banker bashing”, a return of activity and growth in the City should produce good demand at the upper levels. In our view, rents are set to increase by another 10% in 2011.