The perils of a finely balanced market

Over the last 25 years working as an agent, I have learned that the prime property market is a finely balanced thing.  There may not be hundreds of buyers around for those unique creekside cottages and country estates, but it must be remembered that neither are there (ever) hundreds of such properties available for sale, or even in existence in a given location.  So, when sentiment turns, and there is even the slightest uptick in the numbers of likely buyers, this same limited supply can causes sale prices to jump quite quickly, and in large chunks.

 

The media-led consensus view is that all hell will break loose post-Brexit, with crashing property and stock markets.  However we also seem to forget that the consensus is all too often wide of the mark, as has been proved time and time again.  A victory for Leave. A certain Mr Trump in the White House. Conservatives winning a majority government in 2015. Leicester City premiership champions in 2016. And much, much, more. Beware the consensus view indeed.

 

While life goes on for many, some buyers are waiting until after 29 March, the deadline for ‘Brexit’, because they are concerned what might happen to markets after this date.  If the consensus view is wrong again as it has been so many times before, there could be stronger markets after the 29th, and then the buyers who have waited will find themselves competing against other buyers, and any increase in demand could mean they have to pay more to secure the house they want.  The risk for sellers who have waited to place their properties on the market, is that they could at some point be joined by many others at the same time, perhaps leading to too much choice for buyers. The big caveat here of course, is that demand can increase ten-fold quite quickly, but the supply of prime property is restricted. For example, how many detached waterfront houses are there on the Helford River Estuary, or Fal Estuary, let alone how many which might be available for sale at any one time?  In my experience, there is never much choice for buyers of special, one-off property. This is partly because there aren’t that many such properties, but also because they aren’t bought or owned as investments, so there are very rarely any forced sellers.

 

In summary, the prime property market is a finely balanced thing.  And as any experienced investor will be quick to point out, it is impossible for anyone to accurately predict or time the bottom or top of market.