Brighter skies ahead?
FOR the first time in a long time there are signs of genuine optimism coming from the Plymouth property market.
Even allowing for a tendency from some quarters to put a positive spin on things, the consensus seems to be that the statistics are showing an indisputable increase in activity when it comes to buying and selling homes in the city.
At the end of October the latest housing market survey from the RICS showed a definite pick up in transactions levels with prices, while still not rising, not falling at such an alarming rate and the prediction from members was for a stronger end to the year.
Agents across Plymouth confirm that is the pattern they are experiencing in the city with the majority of offices reporting more sales, more enquiries and in some cases more instructions – although the number of properties coming to the market remains low.
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The weeks leading up to Christmas are traditionally slow for the property market but numerous agents are reporting a surprising surge in activity for the time of year.
Roger Punch of Stags said: "Behaviour patterns seem to be changing.
"It was always customary for things to slow down considerably at this time of the year and in the summer months but we set up quite a few deals over the holiday period and we are noticing that people are now continuing to consider moving home right across the Christmas period.
"There is generally a more optimistic picture all round – although it is very marginal.
"Confidence is gradually returning to the market and sales have very definitely increased.
"We have seen a real increase in business over the last six weeks or so and that has been chiefly where people have been willing to renegotiate on price.
"My view is that a lot of people returned from their summer holidays and resolved to crack on with things and take a fresh look at their asking price and that has triggered several sales."
Accurate pricing is the key factor when securing a sale.
All agents agree that if you insist on putting your house on the market with an inflated value it will simply sit there, stagnate and you will eventually end up getting an even lower price.
Jonathan Turfrey of Haart believes that one of the reasons that sales are picking up is that more people are realising that.
"Accurate pricing is the key and over the last year people seem to have grasped the idea that it is a pointless exercise expecting to get an inflated price.
"It just slows things down and in the end you getting less," he said.
"Houses that are coming to the market with the correct prices are attracting viewings and getting buyers.
"Usually the first or second offer you get is your best offer and there is no point in holding out for more and if you are buying and selling in the same market it is all relative anyway."
Reporting their best-ever figures for sales, instructions and enquiries over the last couple of months Julian Partridge of Julian Marks, which was launched in Plymstock just over a year ago, underlines that point.
"We have been getting a fairly consistent amount of business throughout the year and it has been building," he said.
"But pricing has been the key factor and getting an accurate valuation from the start is essential.
"Clients who accept our expert advice and choose to market their house at the right valuation find that they are getting sales.
"We have had sales at the full asking price and even on a couple of occasions slightly above, but you have to get the viewers through the door.
"Prices have remained fairly stable but I don't think they are likely to increase for the next two to three years and, while our economy is on a knife edge and we are still at the mercy of the crisis in the Eurozone, I don't think anything is going to change."
Matthew Minnett of Connells also reports that his offices are seeing an increase in the number of listings and sales of around 10 to 15 per cent.
He thinks that people who have been stalling on deciding about whether to make a move have now decided to get on with it.
His firm has invested heavily in providing mortgages which he believes is a reassuring sign of confidence in the future.
Difficulty in obtaining mortgages still remains once of the major headaches for the property market however.
Mr Partridge points out that lenders are favouring what he calls the 'blue chip' clients who have 50 to 60 per cent deposits, offering them very favourable deals.
First-time buyers who are finding it difficult to get at least 10-20 per deposits, especially those with a poor credit history, are still struggling to get finance and as it is this sector that is still the engine house that drives the rest of the market it is having a detrimental effect on sales.
Overall, however, there seems to be a small but perceptible increase in activity with more people moving home and several more consulting agents about selling their property in 2013.