It’s a Buyer’s Market

Local property prices are down but there is still demand, say agents

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W12 estate agents were upbeat this week, despite a recent Halifax report saying house prices had fallen by 2.5% in March alone – the biggest monthly decline since September 1992.

Local agents confirmed that prices in the W12 area were down, but some said media reports were exaggerated.

“Prices have dropped slightly, but not as drastically as they said on the news,” said Niyta Radia of Apple Estates in Askew Road. “I don’t think it (the downturn) applies to West London and Shepherd’s Bush. Even Acton is doing fairly well,” she said.

But Paul Jorgensen of Jorgensen Estates near Shepherd’s Bush Green said the mood had changed since 2007: “Last year, there was so little on the market that everything was being snapped up quickly,” he said.

Now, he said, fewer people were registering to buy and there was an increase in the number of properties for sale. “There’s an element of fear,” he said. “People want to sell now”. However, he said it was also quite usual for the market to pick up just after Easter.

This spring, however, banks have been withdrawing many of their mortgages, making borrowing more difficult.

W12 agents said the tougher mortgage conditions meant some properties were sticking on the market for longer: “Bigger houses are taking longer to sell but smaller flats sell, if they’re at the right price,” Radia said.

Properties usually popular with investors were also proving more difficult to sell, said Jorgensen: “We’re struggling to get interest in the White City estate because the buy-to-let market is down,” he said.

The Halifax report comes in the wake of Nationwide figures which showed house prices had fallen for five months in a row.

But at the Askew Road end of W12, Radia said that while many buyers were nervous, properties near the main schools, such as the Wendell Park area, were still selling well.

She was also optimistic about the Westfield development, due to open later this year: “As soon as the shopping centre is up and running, prices will be higher,” she said. “Now is the time to buy. Buyers should take advantage of the situation”.

According to the Halifax’s chief economist, Martin Ellis, the housing market across the country looks set to cool in 2008: “Overall, we expect there to be a modest fall in UK house prices this year,” he said.

Jonathan Davis from Armstrong Davis, Chartered Financial Planners, meanwhile, painted a gloomier picture: “London will be hit badly by 30-50,000 City job losses and all the buy-to-lets. Easy money and BTL created the boom and the two are making the bust,” he said.

He also brought up the question of the BBC’s relocation of around 1,500 staff from White City to Salford. “How many properties – owner occupiers and BTLs - does that affect?” he asked.

In Askew Road, Apple Estates’ Niyta Radia appeared unperturbed by the uncertainty ahead: “I’m very optimistic,” she said. “People shouldn’t be frightened. It’s a temporary downturn”.

April 11, 2008