Monday, 5 September 2011

September beginnings

September is an exciting month. Families wring every drop out of the holidays, returning to schools and workplaces with tans still fresh from a mad drive up from some foreign port, the day before term starts. Children commence new academic years with the mixed emotions of catching up with missed friends and the fresh challenges of being another year older and just that little bit more grown up.

In Winchester, our September starts with the Alresford Show. A wonderful agricultural show which allows us to launch September sales and greet clients, old and new. It is lovely that in a business where over 80% of new clients commence their search via the internet, there is still a place for a chat in a field with a glass and a nibble. Each year, we seem to help more and more clients in this way.

Harvests are safely gathered in and the countryside sports stubbled fields in the gentile manner that gentlemen “forget” to shave on a Saturday yet get away with it with a smart shirt. There is a wonderful market at this time of year, whether it is an Indian summer or an early autumn. Buyers busy themselves, as does the rest of nature – hoping to have everything buttoned down before the winter. Salmon race up chalk streams towards their redds, squirrels bury acorns in lawns that are never to be found, gamekeepers prepare for early season partridge and agents prepare to launch post summer sales.

Seasonality has largely been lost in the housing market as a continued shortage of prime property has eroded the traditional “closed seasons” of the school summer holidays. Whilst it is true that many fathers will spend more time away with their families, this does not replace the desire to find the right property. Conversations around holiday supper tables are no less property orientated than weekend dinner parties in town or country. We have experienced consistent markets throughout the year in this respect. Yet the sea change in buying activity is as arbitrary and unpredictable as the seasons themselves. We have sold houses in April heat waves and August monsoons. A remarkable result in the last round of snow, earlier in the year, was a 17% premium achieved for perhaps the most neglected property we have sold.

Continued historically low interest rates have given way to some very cheap mortgage deals. It is essentially cheaper to buy than rent. Stock markets are within pre credit crunch ranges and sovereign debt has arguably been a feature of western economies since they came off the gold standard. It is the differential that is important, what you sell for is only important in relation to what you pay for the next property. In this market, there has arguably never been a better time to trade up.

A 15% premium was achieved in the recent sale of a village house; following 38 viewings, another recently achieved a 12.2% premium after 42 viewings and 23 offers generated over 10 days of marketing. A current sale of a house in Winchester launched last Thursday has generated 44 viewings, 3 offers and 12 notes of interest so far. The market is of short of good properties; therefore it is a sellers market, with great opportunities for our clients to achieve some impressive results.

I can only look forward to the unfolding sales season the onset of autumn with leaves turning to shades that make the whole countryside appear on fire and all that this lovely time of year has to bring. I have packed away my summer marketing skills set, along with my trout rod. My wellingtons and shooting coat are resident in my car. I have a diary full of property appointments and shoot dates. I am excited by all this new season has in store!

Matthew Hallett

Head of Residential Sales, Winchester