If you’re looking to buy residential property in London right now, buckle your seatbelt: despite recent doom and gloom headlines, Central London remains a seller’s market.
It is true prices have come off about 20 per cent since the 2014 high. It’s also true that the average time a London home spends on the market has increased, and that the number of transactions in London has fallen to almost half what it was in the heady peak of 2010.
However, these statistics can be misleading. We’re actually operating in a two-tier market, with around 20 per cent of properties attracting huge amounts of interest and 80 per cent stagnating due to incorrect pricing, poor marketing or a substandard product.
Quality, well-priced properties are still selling in a flash, often in competitive bidding scenarios well over the asking price. So, while buyers should expect a discount from the high of five years ago, those who think they can take a leisurely approach to their property search are in for a shock. This is my advice to buyers in the market right now.
1. Prepare yourself
Before you even begin your search, make sure you are fully prepared to act. Appoint a mortgage broker, surveyor and lawyer who are well known in the London market, and have all your paperwork in place. Cash is king and clearly puts the buyer into a much stronger position than someone obtaining a mortgage, but if that isn’t an option it is vital to have a mortgage agreed in principle before you begin your property search.
2. Search far and wide
Stock levels are very low, especially for well-priced properties in desirable areas. It may take buyers up to six months to find a property that fits their criteria, and when they do, they will likely face stiff competition. Notting Hill, Marylebone, Maida Vale and Holland Park are all areas where we are seeing gazumping and competitive bidding, particularly for family houses.
It may take buyers up to six months to find a property that fits their criteria
It is also important for buyers to be aware that many of the best properties in London sell off-market. In St John’s Wood, for example, nearly 75 per cent of the properties we are seeing at the moment are not being sold on the open market. This means that, unless you retain a buying agent, you will not be aware of much of the property that is currently available.
3. Show commitment
Once you’ve found a property you like, it is important to act quickly. This is not just to pre-empt other offers, but to show the vendor that you are committed. We were recently involved in a situation where the winning bid was £100,000 less than the highest public bid. Why? Because the buyer was a sure thing: a neighbour who knew the house and area well and could transact in three days.
4. Be engaging
Once an offer has been accepted, a buyer needs to ensure the vendor remains settled and engaged. A key part of this is good, daily communication, even if it’s only to report that there is no update that day. In the end, vendors and sales agents are people, and trust and relationships are important if you want to ensure a smooth exchange.
Selling yourself as a buyer is critical to winning in today’s competitive market, and it’s often the small things that ensure success.