The year started without let or hindrance from the hectic end to 2013 with sales being agreed in a very short timescale to one of several potential buyers. Significant shortage in stock levels and overwhelming local demand, which was swelled by those being displaced from central London, driving the market. Most property sales in the early stages of 2014 was by way of best and final offers from multiple potential buyers. This carried on for the first 5 months of the year, although there were signs that buyer numbers were starting to dwindle as those that bought were not being replaced with new buyers quite so readily.
April 2014 saw the implementation of the mortgage market review, the purpose of which was to make banks and building societies more responsible in their approach to lending, which clearly is a good thing. However, as with the majority of knee jerk reactions in this country, we tend to swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction. The effects of the mortgage market review are still being felt, with the number of approved mortgages falling month on month since its inception. The more stringent lending criteria applicants must meet has caused problems for some by way of not getting the mortgage product they wanted or needed, irrespective of having a mortgage agreement in principle. Further restrictions on lenders imposed by the Bank of England meant they were only able to lend up to 15% of their total lending to those looking to secure a loan in excess of 4.5 times their yearly income - again this caused some buyers to drastically alter their plans and in some cases stop looking.
May and June were relatively quiet months whilst the market took stock of these changes and buyers came to terms with the substantial increases in price that had shaped the early months of the year. This pause allowed the market to catch its breath before the onslaught continued in July. This was probably our busiest month, agreeing some £35 million of combined property values.
August saw the first significant increase in available stock levels, coupled just in time to coincide with the annual summer holiday season. This had a marked effect on asking prices, as with fewer buyers actively looking sellers had to price their properties more keenly to attract interest from the outset.
September saw the Scottish referendum and the political party conference season - both having their own effects on the market. The most important being Labour's proposed 'Mansion Tax', a rehash of the Liberal Democrats suggestion of two years ago, which had the greatest impact on properties with a value of two million pounds or more. The effect was most felt in more Central London. The knock on effect was felt across the London market with prices easing further throughout September and October.
November saw resurgence in buyer activity, as many decided prices had come down sufficiently for them to take advantage. Whilst other agents - who had not properly advised their respective clients - struggled to agree sale we have agreed sales on the majority of the flats we are marketing and still at exceptionally good prices. The Autumn Statement, especially the notable changes to Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), will encourage first time buyers further still with the reduction in the tax they will be liable for. However the house market will take time to adjust to the increase in duty that sales over £1,125,000 will now attract. December has continued in the same rich vein as November with many buyers keen to secure a new home before the Christmas festive period.