Richard Barber, Director at W.A.Ellis, part of the JLL Group, comments on the prime London sales market: “Firstly, the good news; with the Conservative party conclusively winning the General Election, optimism and confidence in the prime central London (PCL) property market has undoubtedly returned.
After a long period of hesitancy amongst both purchasers and potential vendors, viewings, offers, and sales are now beginning to take place. Since 8th May we have received a dramatic uplift in instructions and offers across all sectors of the market. Enquiries from both international and domestic purchasers have increased, and in particular we have noticed much renewed interest from the Middle East.
“In broad terms, capital values within the Prime Central London market fell during Quarter 1, as the spectre of a Labour Government cast a shadow over the sales market and the level of transactions declined by as much as 30% in some sectors, with the number of house sales declining most significantly.
“With the election over and a Conservative Government now in place, we believe that the market will revert to its pre-election state. We expect the price falls of recent months to reverse, with some price rises materialising and with five year predicted growth estimated to be in excess of 20%. However, we still expect price growth to be quite modest this year, particularly as the market has not yet had time to adapt to the stamp duty (SDLT) reforms of late 2014.
“It is this last point that still hangs over the upper end of the market and still restricts transaction levels and potential capital growth. Whether Mr Osborne’s decision to raise SDLT to 12% on the proportion of a purchase over £1,500,000, will be regarded as a masterstroke in defeating Mansion Tax and cooling central London prices or, as I believe is more likely, an overzealous measure which will reduce HMRC’s revenues, is yet to be decided.
“The inequalities within the housing market remain at the forefront of the media, however, with the election now behind us, we can hope that the politicising of the market will cease and the Government can address the genuine issues which we are all faced with.
What is most apparent, however, is that mortgage rates will undoubtedly begin to rise as long term swap rates begin to creep upwards and affordability, particularly for first young time buyers, will be strongly affected. My view, and it is one shared with many within the industry, is that a mortgage rate fixed for 5 years at circa 2%, is as good as it will get, and one should act swiftly to obtain these short term offers.
“The shortage of suitable housing for older people is keeping homeowners stuck in properties worth £820 billion and leaving £7.7 million spare bedrooms empty. Research carried out by Legal and General and The Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR), suggests that almost a third of homeowners over the age of 55 have considered downsizing over the past five years, yet only 7% have actually done so.
“It would seem obvious considering the above, that older people are remaining in their homes due to a fear of their children not being able to afford homes of their own, the transactional costs involved in downsizing (including prohibitive stamp duty), and, particularly within London, the differential in price between life on one floor within a flat, and life on five within the traditional family house.
“All of the above would suggest that the Government should concentrate on increasing liquidity (and revenues) by reducing the upper level of stamp duty and building both affordable homes for young people, and incentivising developers to build for cash-rich older purchasers whose needs are not so obviously addressed.”
W.A.Ellis is currently marketing a range of properties on the sales and lettings market. For further information, please call: 020 7306 1600 or visit www.waellis.com
About W.A.Ellis – part of the JLL group
Established in 1868, W.A.Ellis has specific expertise in property sales, lettings, valuation, development and investment in Prime central London. Part of the JLL group, W.A.Ellis today is positioned on an extensive global platform. JLL (NYSE: JLL) is a professional services and investment management firm offering specialised real estate services to clients seeking increased value by owning, occupying and investing in real estate. Annual fee revenues are $4.7 billion and gross revenue of $5.4 billion. JLL has more than 230 corporate offices, operates in 80 countries and has a global workforce of approximately 58,000. On behalf of our clients the firm provides management and real estate outsourcing services for a property portfolio of 3.4 billion square feet, or 316 million square meters, and completed $118 billion in sales, acquisitions and finance transactions in 2014. Its investment management business, LaSalle Investment Management, has $55.3 billion of real estate assets under management. JLL is the brand name, and a registered trademark, of Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated. For further information, visit www.jll.com.