Simon Smith: Choosing between the perfect market and the perfect property

North Devon Gazette

If there is one thing that is certain, it’s that uncertainty is a part of life.

The current situation in Ukraine and talk of possible escalation has made the 24-hour news channels wish that there were 25 hours in a day to cram in extra footage and speculation about the rising cost of living, which was a topic of debate even before one of the world's largest energy exporters became beyond the pale has made it feel as if the smooth sailing waters of recent times have suddenly turned into white water rapids.Â

Yet if one takes a broad enough view, it is in fact periods of calm that are the abnormalities, and uncertainty is definitely the norm.

If I look back over the time I have been involved in property, normality has been conspicuous by its absence.

I began selling houses ion the late 1990s, just as the UK was emerging from a bitter recession.

At the time we were selling a vast number of repossessed properties that had been taken by the banks and building societies, and viewings were a rather depressing tour of property after property filled with ‘do not use’ warning tape sealed across every appliance, sink, shower and bath.

In the early 2000s, the property market recovered and went on to boom until the house of cards that was sub prime lending - in essence giving huge mortgage loans to people with virtually no income - collapsed.

Northern Rock went bust followed by a wave of major banks and the world lurched into global recession.Â

From around 2012 the property market got back on to its feet, and shortly after it was booming to such an extent that the Government imposed the extra three per cent levy -still in place now - on landlords and other second home owners in a bid to curb the explosion of buy-to-let and to give first time buyers a fighting chance.

This caused mayhem as landlords snapped up properties in a rush to beat the tax imposition deadline.

After that, a brief lull from crises was interrupted by the EU referendum in 2016 which plunged the property market into a state of stasis right up until the General Election of late 2019 and the housing market, along with many other business sectors, was finally ‘back to normal’ in early 2020... just in time to be hit by a global pandemic!

And of course, you know the rest, about how weeks after the Government lifted the last of the Covid restrictions and things were once again ‘back to normal’, Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine.

So what do we learn from the above?

We learn that there is no such thing as a ‘normal’ property market.

The reason this is important to understand is that, right now, there will be people here in North Devon as well as all over the UK who need to move and who will be delaying the decision and waiting for a more normal market.

There will be potential sellers who are waiting for the top of the market before selling, and of course, the problem with that is you’ll never know what was the top, or bottom, of a market until at least six months after it’s passed. Â

So what is the best strategy?

The best strategy is to play the property rather than the market, by which I mean buying the right property for you when it’s available rather than waiting for market conditions to be ‘just right’ - they probably never will be.

If choosing between the perfect market and the perfect property, I know which I would choose, every time.

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