We have an ambivalent attitude to property in this country. As homeowners, we delight in hearing that homes in our area have gone up by this or that per cent over the past year, even if we are unlikely to benefit because the same would probably be true of whatever property we buy next.
We goggle at property porn like Escape To The Country and Grand Designs, which provide no information of any use to any sensible homeowner. We haunt estates agents’ windows even if we have no wish to buy or sell.
Then we complain that our children cannot find anywhere to live.
The following, therefore, will not be unalloyed good news to those fortunate to own homes in these areas. A survey by Rightmove, the UK’s biggest property website, has identified the ten biggest “property hotspots” across the UK, all in the south or south east of England.
Number one with a bullet is Newmarket, Suffolk. In at number five, St Ives, Cambridgeshire. The methodology was to spot the gap between the number of homes selling and new sellers coming on to the market.
In Newmarket, new sellers in July, as against a year ago, fell by 49 per cent. The rise in the number of sales agreed was 79 per cent. (For St Ives, the relevant figures were sellers down 56 per cent and sales up by 49 per cent.) For economists, the drop in new sellers represents supply, and sales agreed demand.
Local property factors
Both towns will have benefited from the spill-over from the strong property market in Cambridge. The Suffolk town where I live is too small to feature in the survey, but the same is almost certainly true there and across a swathe of Suffolk.
It is obvious, from a glance at local estate agents’ boards, that there are houses priced up to £500,000, small ones in the town or others in the villages outside. But there is nothing in the price range up from that. If you are selling in suburban London, say, and wanting to move out here, you probably have a million or so to spend. There is nothing to buy.
Private property sales
Anecdotally, I hear any such sales are taking place off grid, not going through estate agents but arranged privately, almost by word of mouth. This makes sense; why hand over a percentage of the value of your property in return for the estate agent merely putting a picture in the window and standing back so as not to be trampled to death in the rush.
By my reckoning, this shortage is exacerbated by sellers who cannot put their homes on the market because they can find nothing to buy. The stock shortage is across the country, says Rightmove. In July last year it had 29 properties on the books for every agent they employ. The figure this year was just 16.
Needless to say Rightmove’s advice is to use this shortage to sell – but this only applies if you can find something to buy. In three of the hotspots, including Newmarket, prices are up by nine per cent over the year because of this mismatch between supply and demand. Basic economics again. I leave it to you, the reader, to decide if all the above is good news, bad news or just another glut of property statistics. It makes me profoundly grateful that I have no reason to move house at any conceivable point in the future.