There was a time before 1973, the year of the UK’s first big property boom, when houses and flats were seen as investments, but hardly as commodities. They were mostly regarded as homes that would be paid for by the time their owners retired – providing security in later years and perhaps even the means to move to a bungalow by the coast.
In the four decades since that first boom, attitudes and expectations have altered a great deal. Retirees are now as likely to want a modern, city centre, lock-and-leave apartment as a seaside bungalow.
The housing market has changed also. It has become big business. The post-war generation, the baby boomers, have profited greatly from the waves of boom and bust that followed that first housing bubble. It is hard to envision the subsequent generations taking as much from the property market as their parents. But of course, in property, one never really knows.
So where will it go from here? What does the New Year hold in store? Certainly those in the property industry are very unsure. The elephant in the room is, of course, Brexit. Nobody can quite know how this national tumult will affect the property market – or any other markets for that matter.
What we do know is that large numbers of professional landlords are bailing out of the buy-to let sector – deterred less by Brexit than by increased taxation and legislation. Fortunately first time buyers can now benefit from motivated sellers and more choice in a time of low interest rates and high employment.
Estate agents also know that sellers have a choice. They have a choice of which agent to turn to when it comes to selling. So sellers can expect better service and transparency in future. Over the past few years a number of high-spending online agents have been tempting sellers with extra low fees and a method of-up front payment that promises big results for little cost. We are learning, through plummeting shares and company failures in this sector, that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is too good to be true. At this time of year we are reminded that all that glistens is not gold. The enticingly wrapped socks at Christmas are still socks.
So if you are thinking about moving in 2019 you have choices. Consider them wisely. But also recognise that this is an extraordinary time. Nothing is certain. Don’t bank on the killer sale. Do aim for a great purchase. Be realistic. Price, price, price is as important as location, location, location. Don’t put your biggest asset in the hands of the inexperienced. Finally, remember the name of the game is moving: selling and/or buying is just a part of that bigger picture.
Nobody quite knows where he or she is in this Brexit year. But at least everyone should know where they want to be – and use an established, professional estate agent to help get them there.