If the past 18 months have taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected

North Devon Gazette

It’s traditional at this time of the year to reflect on the previous 12 months and also to look ahead to what the next year may bring.

And as not even an owl can look both forwards and backwards at the same time, we’ll tackle each topic separately, and in chronological order.

It goes without saying that the past 12 months have been extraordinary for everyone across the world, and the property market both generally in the UK and more specifically here in North Devon has been no exception.

Record prices have been achieved, asking prices regularly exceeded and by considerable margins, properties being sold unseen or via FaceTime or video calls where the accompanying agents role has changed from salesman to cameraman and competition between buyers reaching almost fisticuff levels as the house hunting hordes descended on North Devon.

All in all then, a year characterised by lots and lots - and lots - of buyers chasing fewer and fewer properties with the resulting disparity between supply and demand driving prices inexorably higher.

Looking ahead to 2022, we can see a variety of conflicting factors on the horizon that will dictate the direction of travel for home owners and house hunters alike.

As I write these very words, a debate is going on in the media about the likelihood of another lockdown after the Christmas celebrations - soon to be renamed the ‘Annual Super Spreader Event’ - and if that does prove be the case, then I expect that the property market will receive it’s own booster jab as the prospect of further restrictions once again drive urbanites towards rural and coastal areas.

As the emergence of the Omicron variant has also brought back the concerns felt by many about making overseas travel arrangements in a rapidly changing world, we are likely to see another bumper year for staycations which will also mean increased demand for holiday homes and for properties to holiday let - again meaning our coastal and country villages will become even more highly sought after, and highly priced.

It brings back into focus the debate about demand for holiday accommodation conflicting with the need for housing for both local and locally employed people, the latter especially if all the staycationers are to be fed, watered and entertained then those feeding, watering and entertaining them will need somewhere to live.

Balancing these drivers of demand are likely to be the threat of interest rate rises, with a quarter point rise already on the books and potentially more to come.

This is something that would traditionally cool house price growth, so it will be interesting to see if that happens although as we are at such historically low base rates, I would expect the effect to undramatic.

The other interesting factor at play here in the North Devon area will, I think, be the perception of our area in terms of Covid risk, by which I mean that when our local housing explosion - boom is far too mild a word for it - first took off, we were seen as a haven from spiralling Covid case numbers and for a while, both North Devon and Torridge districts had among the lowest Covid case numbers in the country.

However, fast forward to recent times and for a while we topped the table for national numbers, and while I expect we will settle into mid-table anonymity, the loss of our record low case numbers status may have a diminishing effect on demand.

Of course, this is all conjecture for now, and if the past 18 months have taught us anything, it is surely to expect the unexpected, and as a wise man once said, predictions are always difficult – especially about the future!

Have a wonderful, and above all, safe Christmas.