Housing expert predicts a more confident 2013
THE boss of a leading estate agency is predicting a better year for Plymouth's housing market in 2013 as confidence returns and prices remain stable.
Darren Lawson, managing director of Mansbridge and Balment, said house prices were even "marginally" higher than this time last year and added: "There's reasonable optimism. There are people predicting price growth next year and 2014.
"Economists are predicting stability and small growth and improvement in 2014 and 2015 as confidence comes back to the economy and lending eases."
Mr Lawson said the UK's emergence from recession, if coupled with an easing of lending, could augur well.
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For the first time in years a price crash is not being predicted, and Mr Lawson said the traditional housing market seasons look set to return following years of boom and, and the effect of royal events and the Olympics in the past two years.
"There is general confidence that we are slowly out of recession, a feel-good factor," Mr Lawson said. "But I would temper this with the fact that austerity is still the buzz word.
"However, there's growing confidence there will not be a price crash.
"That's bringing some waverers back into the market, and there are people in rented accommodation that after three to five years have finally managed to save for a deposit.
"Plus there are those people who have not been trading up or down.
"The predicted house price growth will prompt some people to go back in."
He said that during the past five autumns, market commentators had forecast a 20 per cent to 30 per cent price crash for the following year.
Although the crash never materialised, it affected the market.
"Every year I get asked (if there will be a crash) and say it's not going to happen," said Mr Lawson. "But for the first time this year I have not read any such articles."
Mr Lawson was talking at the end of "a pretty good year overall".
He said 2012 was characterised by a slow start, a quiet April, with Easter and the bank holidays effecting the market, and then a dull summer, possibly the result of the Queen's diamond jubilee events and the London Olympics and Paralympics.
"I can't remember as bad an August and September, very poor," Mr Lawson said. "But in October it came back, with a vengeance.
"The distortion factor created a pent-up demand. It was an exceptional October and a pretty good November.
"And we are having a good December."
Mansbridge and Balment's two Plymouth offices had 13 sales agreed before December 18, and Mr Lawson said: "This final quarter is proving to be a strong one, and that was the case last year too."
During the past three years there were "marginal" shifts in house prices, up in the first six months, down in the second half.
"The property stock is the main factor in that," he said.
"We have traditionally been starting the new year with a low level of available housing stock."
The spring period, from February to June, was the "most fertile", and probably remains so, he said.
Then there was a quiet summer, followed by a busier September and October.
He said this traditional seasonal pattern looks set to return after the levelling out during the 2004 to 2007 boom and the distortions of the past two years.
Mr Lawson said there is still an underlying level of demand for homes but overall demand has been hit by a lending situation described as "stifling", with a "hellishly" high level of deposits needed.
This has effected demand and produced a shortage of supply of good-quality property to the market.
But he said the market had also not been saturated by a glut of repossessed properties, despite last year's double dip recession.
"We have not had appalling levels of repossessions," he said. "Probably because the Government has kept interest rates so low."
After a 2008 slump, house prices recovered in 2009 and have held stable since, currently sitting at about the level they were in 2005.
"That's convinced me the UK culture and appetite for home ownership is as strong as ever," Mr Lawson said. "I was doubting that in 2008/9, but I can still see a scenario with a lost generation of first-time buyers.
"The 1980s feeling that everyone has a right to buy has been badly effected.
"Now people with family wealth are in a better position."
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