Be­hind the volatile fig­ures, we still have faith in our homes

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY - Tony Wright

THE time is right to con­sider a view of the hous­ing mar­ket that gets back to ba­sics and tries to make some sense of the flurry of sta­tis­tics, in­dices and sur­veys.

They can be con­fus­ing and con­tra­dic­tory to say the least and it helps to have knowl­edge of what is ac­tu­ally go­ing on on the ground in spe­cific ar­eas as there are enor­mous vari­a­tions from place to place.

Still, you can imag­ine how many hous­ing mar­ket sur­veys and in­dices I read. Es­tate agents are sur­rounded by house-price track­ers sur­veys and re­ports.

Their fig­ures com­pete for the at­ten­tion of prop­erty pro­fes­sion­als and the gen­eral pub­lic in claim­ing to of­fer the most ac­cu­rate and com­pre­hen­sive snapshot of the cur­rent prop­erty mar­ket.

Can they all be right, and which one should we choose when chart­ing house prices?

There is, un­for­tu­nately, no easy an­swer. As ra­tio­nal­ists we’d be fool­ish to deny em­pir­i­cal re­search, wouldn’t we? But when it comes to re­al­ity, you have to ad­mit that per­cep­tions count for a lot. For in­stance, the of­fi­cial UK Crime Sur­vey pub­lished by re­cent gov­ern­ments has, in suc­ces­sive years, re­ported that over­all crime in the coun­try goes down. Yet, if you ask me or Joe or Joanna Pub­lic if they feel we are liv­ing in an in­creas­ingly law­less so­ci­ety, they are likely to agree.

No mat­ter how many po­lice of­fi­cers can be proven to be on the streets, you can never find one when you need one and, by the way, aren’t they get­ting younger these days?

It’s all about per­cep­tion. And while per­cep­tion isn’t every­thing, it is po­tent and car­ries a lot of sway in many aspects of our day-to-day lives and con­trib­utes to some of the de­ci­sions we have to make.

So it was with a glad heart, I read a re­cent hous­ing mar­ket sur­vey re­port which con­cluded that the pub­lic re­fuses to be­lieve that house prices will go down.

How­ever my heart wasn’t glad­dened with the mis­placed thought that the good times were back again and I could re­tire early and see my chil­dren through univer­sity with­out putting in sev­eral more years of shifts.

No. It was com­forted with the thought that the pub­lic’s be­lief in the safe haven of bricks and mor­tar has not, fun­da­men­tally, been shaken.

Let’s face it, with what’s been hap­pen­ing in re­cent years and, in all like­li­hood, for a few more years to come, you’d think that, ob­jec­tively, con­fi­dence in the hous­ing mar­ket would have dis­ap­peared en­tirely.

Ad­mit­tedly, the re­port did high­light lo­cal vari­a­tions in lev­els of con­fi­dence but these re­gional patches were very much de­pen­dent on the area’s hous­ing mix and de­mo­graph­ics of wealth.

But York­shire’s Golden Tri­an­gle that has its points at Har­ro­gate, York and North Leeds and takes in Wetherby, still re­mains an at­trac­tive lo­ca­tion in which to live and in which the qual­ity of life has held up bet­ter than in some other ar­eas of the coun­try.

Good schools and trans­port links ob­vi­ously help cre­ate this, but also re­al­is­tic buy­ers who un­der­stand the con­di­tions and have changed their ap­proach to buy­ing and sell­ing ac­cord­ingly.

We have many good prop­er­ties in great lo­ca­tions. A cheap house in a poor lo­ca­tion will al­ways be harder to sell even in a buoy­ant mar­ket where there are houses aplenty.

Whereas a more ex­pen­sive house in a good lo­ca­tion is more likely to hold its own in a harder mar­ket. That is the gen­eral rule and it is un­likely to change.

If the per­cep­tion of the great Bri­tish pub­lic is as por­trayed in this re­port, the phrase as “safe as houses” prob­a­bly has more res­o­nance in times like these than it did in the roller­coaster ride that we thought we were en­joy­ing 10 years ago.

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