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