Supply and demand
LAST week we highlighted the dearth of quality retirement property available for sale but it is clear that there is an overall shortage of homes coming to the market with demand outstripping supply in every sector.
"I think it is an issue which every agent is having to deal with at the moment because there aren't enough homes coming to the market," said Andrew Hampton of Fox & Sons at Plympton.
"It is something that is happening across the region and we are just not getting enough instructions.
"It is always a problem at this time of year anyway – people are thinking that it is getting close to Christmas and they don't want to put their house on the market.
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"We have just had a our best sales month for a very long time so properties are selling well but we aren't getting enough coming through to replace the ones that have been sold. We need new stock to sell.
"I am sure that things will improve as confidence continues to return to the market but for a while now people have been reluctant to move because of economic uncertainty and have preferred to stay put and add improvements to their existing homes, such as loft conversions."
And according to statistics gleaned in an assessment recently commissioned by local councils including Plymouth, South Hams and West Devon, the situation is only likely to get worse as not enough new houses are being built.
The findings of GVA Grimley Ltd are that only half the new houses needed to accommodate Plymouth's swelling population are being built and the number of people living in the city is expected to hit 300,000 by 2031.
One initiative to try and tackle the problem of not enough houses being available was launched last month, uniting the charity Empty Homes, the Ecology Building Society, a group of local authorities and using £3 million of Government funding.
Called The National Empty Homes Loan Fund, it is aimed at bringing almost three quarters of a million empty properties back into use by offering loans of up to £15,000 at a fixed five per cent interest rate.
It has already been swamped by enquiries from owners of empty homes keen to access the funding but experts in the Plymouth area say that this is not a major issue in this area.
"It is not just a problem we have here," said Julian Partridge of Julian Marks Estate Agency based at Plymstock.
"It is not like parts of the industrial north and Midlands where they have swathes of homes standing empty.
"We just need to encourage people to get back into the marketplace because there aren't enough quality homes available to meet the demand at the moment and obviously when you have that situation it keeps the prices up.
"It is always a quiet time of year in the run up to Christmas because unless people have to move, perhaps because of work reasons, they tend to put off moving house until the new year."
Iain Christie of Bradleys of Mannamead in Plymouth agreed.
"Empty homes are not something we have a big issue with in this region," he said.
"You might just come across the odd property that is vacant for a long period due to probate issues, or an ex rental or repossession but for the most part houses that are on the market and properly priced and presented sell quickly and don't stay empty for very long.
"At the moment there are serious buyers out there and they are the sort of buyers that are viewing because they genuinely want to buy, they aren't the kind of 'browsers' you may get in the summer months. They are not time-wasters."
He said that there is always a seasonal dip on new instructions in October and he said others may be holding back because they are waiting to see what will happen with the Government's new Help to Buy Scheme in the hope that it may lead to an increase in prices.
But he added: "It is actually a very good time to put your house on the market at the moment because there are fewer homes available and you have less serious competition for the amount of buyers that there are.
"It means you are more likely to get your asking price or even more.
"We have had properties recently that have gone to best and final offers because four or five buyers are after the same home."
Julian Partridge reported a similar situation.
"There is definitely a feel-good feeling about the market and there is a greater demand than supply," he said.
"Yes, there will be the odd old chestnut that sticks, perhaps because it is too near to a busy main road or the garden faces north or it has some other issue but a good quality house, properly presented and priced will sell.
"Houses like that which come to the market attract buyers like bees round a honey pot at the moment.
"We recently put one up for sale and there were four or five buyers after the same property within days and it went for more than the asking price.
"It is a great time to sell because there are some serious buyers out there and not enough homes to meet demand.
"It would be better to consider putting your house on the market now rather than waiting for the new year when there will be lot and lots of people looking to move.
"It has been a very stagnant market but things are definitely picking up."
Andrew Hampton made similar comments, saying: "The property market has been in the doldrums for four years but things are really improving now and we need to convince people to start moving again.
"The properties that we do get on our books sell really quickly and it isn't just one sector of the market, it is across the range.
"We are achieving an average of 97.8 per cent of the asking price and with mortgages more readily available and low interest rates it makes the market very competitive."