Hooray for housing

Houses are built to live in and not look on;
let use be preferred before uniformity

Well woo. And indeed, hoo.

The housing market is well and truly back on its feet, according to the latest from RCIS. In fact, not only is it back on its feet, but it’s positively flying, if you’ll forgive the mixed metaphors.

These statistical press releases that hit my desk are always a bit dry, but basically, in the last three months, there was an average of 22.7 houses sold by each chartered surveyor. The last time the number was that high was in February 2008, just five months after the ‘Northern Rock’s got no money’ story broke on the BBC and seven months before Lehmann Brothers collapsed and almost took the rest of us with them.

Enquiries from potential house purchasers increased across the whole of the UK, as well, so it’s not just a south-east and London-centric story. Prices too, are creeping their way back up, with the RCIS survey finding that 57% of their respondents said that prices were higher.

We all know that a healthy, speedily-moving housing market is fab for business. And not just for those in the business of making and selling building materials. This blog has a tendency to be rather parochial, but a good housing market is great for pretty much everyone. There’s a caveat to this, but I’ll come to that later.

Who benefits when there is a healthy turnover of property transaction? Estate agents. Solicitors, conveyancors, removal companies, decorators, carpet shops, garden centres, window cleaners, John Lewis’ kitchen department because you can’t find where you packed the corkscrew, wine merchants….it goes on.

All these sectors have struggled in the intervening years since February 2008. So it’s great to know that things have improved so much. The more cynical amongst you might suggest that no-one cares if estate agents suffering, but they, too, count as the general public with money to spend or hang onto if times are tough.

At the new, bigger, NMBS exhibition yesterday, the feeling was definitely one that things aren’t just on the up, they’ve upped and got the T-shirt. There was a buzz about the place – OK, so it was a different place which may have made a difference – a busy-ness and confidence that I’ve not seen for a while. Another change was that this confidence was out and proud; last year no-one wanted to mention that business was good, in case they jinxed it.

So, it’s a great time to be selling houses and to be selling building materials. As long as you can get hold of the materials you need, that is. If anyone’s got a spare aircrete plant in their back garden they could just switch on, I know a man who might be interested.

It’s not necessarily a good time to be trying to buy houses, however. The RCIS may have spotted that prices are rising but so have lots of people who are still trying to get on the ladder. Help to Buy has done a lot of good in many areas round the country, but if you are trying to buy a property in London, it’s a different story. With increases in earnings still lagging behind property prices and rental prices, the sort of deposit that those on average or below average earnings can raise won’t even scratch the surface.

The RICS report shows that there is currently, a healthy influx of house purchasers at all stages of the market, even the bottom of the ladder.

That needs to continue. The last thing we need is for the housing market to runaway with itself once again.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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