Shopping property web sites is a Christmas Day custom with me — together with ordering everybody out of the kitchen and smashing the meat thermometer. Final yr, I used to be one of many 1.5m individuals who excused themselves from festivities and logged on to Rightmove. Just like the shepherds on the nativity, we have been simply the primary on the scene. Between Christmas Day and January 2, Rightmove visitors was up 231 per cent.
For a lot of, I believe the festive urge to scroll by means of photos of different individuals’s homes is introduced on by a confrontation with the inescapable fact. We glance across the lunch desk — teenager squeezed up towards the wall, granny sinking in a deck chair — and suppose, we’re going to want an even bigger place.
The Yuletide visitors surge is a UK property market indicator. “If the telephones don’t begin ringing within the weeks after Christmas, then one thing is fallacious,” says Roarie Scarisbrick, a shopping for agent at Property Imaginative and prescient.
This yr the strain is admittedly on. Because the Conservatives returned a majority on this month’s normal election, property brokers have forecasted nice issues in 2020: worth rises and a bumper year in sales.
Are they proper? I doubt it.
The overhanging uncertainties of 2019 are nonetheless overhanging. Brexit seems positive to go forward on January 31, however the long-term buying and selling association with the EU is unclear. Provided that the federal government has made an extension to the transition interval less likely, the spectre of a no-deal Brexit — and the catastrophic impact this might have on the UK economic system and housing market — has returned.
Other than the overhanging uncertainties, there are the underlying details. In elements of the nation, the property market has slowed to a crawl. Home costs are excessive, lending is constrained and wage development has been weak — with actual wages nonetheless decrease than in 2008. Until any a type of issues modifications, the logjam is unlikely to interrupt free — and definitely not in London.
The information tells the story. Within the first seven months of 2019, 53,500 properties have been offered within the capital, in line with the Land Registry — 27 per cent fewer than in the identical interval in 2014, when 73,450 properties offered.
That feels like lots, however the 2014 determine was no nice shakes. Between 1997 and 2007, just one yr didn’t report 80,000 gross sales within the first seven months. Within the first seven months of 2002, the Land Registry chalked up 100,880 gross sales.
In London, home costs are so excessive — and transaction prices so onerous — that many owners don’t have any choice however to remain put. In 1988 the common family moved as soon as each eight.63 years, in line with Zoopla. In 2017, it was as soon as each 23 years.
Which implies most of us logging on to Rightmove this Christmas might be trying, however not shopping for. And this contains me. My spouse and I purchased our first flat in north London 18 months in the past, however the hole between flat and home costs has widened in recent times, and it’s tough to see when we can commerce as much as a home.
I can solely describe my urge to go browsing to property portals at Christmas as a sort of self-flagellation. Costs the place I stay have fallen. However even when we offered our flat, to purchase a three-bedroom home down the road would require our salaries — each mine and my spouse’s — to rise by greater than 43 per cent.
That may be fairly the Christmas bonus.