It’s a buyers’ market, but especially in the north

However, deeper analysis shows that both findings mask some significant regional and local variations which provide further evidence of an acute north-south divide and a property market pock-marked with localised micro-markets.

Miles Shipside, director of Rightmove comments: “Our survey shows that sellers in the south should have more reason to be confident than those in the north, though even within regions there is evidence of variations in confidence in localised micro-markets. In these micro-markets, the combined impacts of demographics, employment and mix of stock go a long way to determining the local market confidence and, in turn, market performance.”

Since the third quarter of 2010, home-movers’ views on the outlook for property prices have been divided, with little sign of an obviously dominant view. This quarter, the ‘price pessimists’ who expect prices to be lower in 12 months’ time (30%) continue to outnumber the ‘price optimists’ who expect prices to be higher (25%). However, the gap between the two has narrowed at a national level compared to both last quarter and last year. There are, however, some notable regional
differences and evidence of a clear north-south divide. For example, in London around one in three (34%) expect prices to be higher in 12 months’ time compared to just one in five (20%) in Wales.

Analysis at town and city level reveals some even starker contrasts. Compare South West London, for example, where two in five expect prices to be higher in 12 months’ time (40%) with Blackpool where just around one in seven (14%) are similarly optimistic on price. Indeed, all of the top 20 towns where residents are most bullish about prices are in the south and 17 of the 20 locations most pessimistic on prices are in the north.

Shipside adds: “On the surface it looks as though potential home movers are feeling a bit more positive about the outlook for property prices. However, hidden beneath is the real story that different market segments are performing very differently and that in all probability your price predictions will depend on your own local micro-market. While parts of the stock-starved south, and London in particular, are feeling relatively bullish about prices, the turmoil of the last few years has
wreaked havoc in parts of the buyer-blocked north.”

It is worth considering the variations in national, regional and local price outlooks in the context of confidence. Rightmove’s survey asked respondents to indicate whether they believed that current market conditions favour buyers, sellers or whether the balance was about equal. 60% indicated that they felt that the ‘balance of power’ lay with buyers, and just 13% with sellers, giving a ‘market balance ratio’ of 5.4:1 – or 5.4 people who believe it is a buyers’ market for every one person who believes it is a sellers’ market. Again, there is strong evidence to indicate a north-south divide and that localised micro-markets are performing very differently within regions. For example, the South East of England has a ratio of 4.2:1 in favour of buyers compared with 6:1 in Wales. Even within Wales there are significant differences; Cardiff has a ratio of 4:1 and yet 50 miles along the M4 in Swansea the ratio is around 13:1.

Shipside comments: “There is a clear north-south divide in both house price expectations and an even more acute contrast of opinion in where the balance of power lies. A shortage of stock and greater numbers of proceedable buyers lead those in the south to anticipate upwards pressure on prices and so a more tricky market for buyers to negotiate a price reduction in.”

When asked to state their reasons for their respective outlooks, concerns over mortgage availability and employment were the main concern for over 7 out of 10 ‘price pessimists’ (74%). The shortage of property for sale leading to upwards price pressure is the view of nearly half (45%) of the ‘price optimists’.

Matt James, Head of Consumer Insight at Rightmove comments: “Over the course of the next year, the fortunes of buyers and sellers are likely be defined by the highly-localised performance of their micro-market. Rightmove’s comprehensive survey of respondents from across the UK allows us to record data at very granular level and map housing market sentiment on a town-by-town basis, and build up a picture how these various micro-markets are performing.”

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