Adrian Tod reports some better news on the housing front.
Every year the influential Mayfair Group, of which my company is a hand-picked and exclusive member, organises a round of regional summit meetings across the country with my fellow estate agent members from over 100 firms from the top of Scotland to the tip of Cornwall and just about everywhere in between. This forum is an opportunity to discuss, analyse and understand the property market from local, regional and national perspectives. For several years these summits were quite sombre affairs at times as estate agents across the length and breadth of the UK reported difficult trading, low sales figures and a general inertia in the market.
But this year was different. At each forum there was a feeling of marked optimism, of increased sales, of more enquiries and of greater interest. Certainly the issues and problems of difficult mortgages and hard-to-acquire deposits are still prevalent. But the overwhelming feeling was one of increased confidence in the property market, in jobs, and in the economy.
Property is always the first in to a recession and is inevitably the first out - but always with an upward trend. We know this only too well from the last three recessions we have been through since the early seventies. Indeed since the mid-fifties the average house price rise per parliament – six Labour and six Conservative – has been about 58%. That is 54.8% under Labour and 61.2% under Conservative. So, in house price terms, there is not much between the two major political parties. But if Mr Cameron does not want his legacy to be one of overall house price decline then he will need to stay in office through a time of post-recession growth as did two Conservative prime ministers before him - Thatcher and Heath. Averaged over their tenancies at No 10 house prices increased by more than 155%!
But at least our current prime minister may now take heart from some recovery. From our reports across the UK it certainly sounds as if we have begun the long haul out of the greatest economic peacetime crisis in living memory. Nowadays the media is full of news about the market although one isn’t sure they always get it right. But estate agents are the very first to understand what is really happening in the housing market – their businesses and livelihoods depend on it. The Mayfair Group regional summits were revealing. Boom times are not exactly back – except perhaps in Central London. But one suspects that a period of slow but sustained incremental growth in activity, demand and value will carry us through the next few years. This will provide us with a relatively stable, non-volatile market which will help give an impetus to the rest of the economy.