Why winter could be the best time of year to buy and sell
IN six weeks time Christmas will be over and we will all be preparing for the New Year.
It may be a time for some to consider a new job, while others will wonder if we will have a repeat of the winter weather of last year and, inevitably, there will be those considering whether 2014 is the year to move.
Traditionally, the run-up to Christmas is a quieter period for estate agents with the inevitable drinks parties with other seasoned property professionals. There will be plenty of reflecting on the past 12 months, while speculating on what the forthcoming year might hold.
However, this year is different from the last few. There are still the drinks invitations but few of the guests are in reflective mode. Instead, we are all looking forward, seeing signs of an improving market, properly priced houses that are selling and buyers who are finally accepting it is worth paying a good price for a good house.
The seasonal element of our business has definitely changed. Yes, the quantity of buyers looking in the winter is lower than say late spring but in the winter the quality of buyer is much, much stronger.
Houses do not look at their most picturesque at this time of year, the leaves are off the trees, there is no stripe on the lawn and the flagstones might be slippy. The view might be hidden in the fog on a damp miserable morning but if you think logically, surely it is a good time to buy?
You are seeing a house bare, so externally you can see how close the neighbour is through the trees at the bottom of the garden. You know whether the gutters are leaking, what, if anything, is hidden behind the creeper that looks so pretty in the summer. Internally, the heating will undoubtedly be turned up but you can tell whether the house has got a cosy feel or whether the well-painted doors and windows are actually rather draughty.
Notwithstanding the sentiments in my last Property Post column regarding the dangers of prejudging a property with the information available online, the likes of Google Maps and Google Street View can be helpful when marketing a property in the winter months as they often offer both ground and aerial images of a property in full leaf. Owners often also have a useful photo selection themselves “of the lovely garden”.
I am aware of a number of house buyers who are actively looking to buy and who are applying the aforementioned rationale, with a number expressing frustration that they cannot find the property they want and enquiring if there is anything else we know of where owners may be tempted to sell this winter.
It therefore seems a little perverse that some owners, whilst minded to move, do not want to commence marketing till the spring because they feel this is when their properties will present better and perhaps by inference feel a better price will be obtained. Some feel there will be noticeable house price growth in the next three to six months. But if you can secure a good price now then why not take it?
If you are moving on then you’ll be buying in the same marketplace.
If you wait until the spring in the hope of achieving a better price, surely if there is to be price growth in Yorkshire in 2014, you will only pay more for your purchase. In other words there will be no gain.
As I prepare this piece, there is brilliant blue sky and sunshine in Harrogate, leaves are disappearing from the trees on The Stray and it is a beautiful late autumn day.
To my mind it’s an ideal time to buy the townhouse I have just been to look at. The size, the number of bedrooms, its location and all its attributes will be no different in the spring.
In fact, I think I have already found a potential buyer.
Tim Waring FRICS is a partner of Knight Frank and heads its estate agency team in Yorkshire.www.knightfrank.com/ harrogate