What do you do if your life plan is off kilter with the housing market?

Sometimes you just know when the time is right for you and your family to make the big move, some of you will have been pondering a move for years. Crunch time for me came when my three children reached toddler stage. They really needed to run and play games outside so hauling them to the park in the morning and afternoon became my daily routine as our postage stamp garden just couldn’t match up to their requirements.

I just dreamed of flinging open doors and letting them scamper freely without me hovering by them in a crowded London playground, where they always seem to scatter off in different directions and I needed eyes in the back of my head.

That was back in 2011 and house hunting then too was surprisingly hard. The market felt very competitive. Every viewing seemed to have a sense urgency, with vibes of ‘if you don’t offer now it will be gone by next week’. Estate agents were running lots of ‘Open House Days’ where you felt you were on a conveyer belt with other buyers, brushing past each other on narrow stairwells or finding yourself standing in a bedroom with three other couples pretending it wasn’t majorly awkward.

The current market has an altogether different feel about it. As we’ve long suspected the number of houses being launched on the market has diminished somewhat, in fact in all parts of the country there is significantly less stock than there was 5 years ago. The only exception is London, where there are 16% more houses available than at the same time 2017 and 25% more than in 2013.

Head of Research at Hamptons International, Johnny Morris, was quoted in the Sunday Times this weekend saying, “2013 was the bottom of the market. As activity and prices have grown since the supply of properties has dwindled. This along with higher transaction costs means fewer pole are moving – HRMC says 1.2m homes were sold last year, whereas long-term average is more like 1.4m.”

Ok, so what do you do if you want to move now? We’ve been house hunting solidly for nearly five years now and this is our take on what to do if waiting around for a change in the market could mean you putting your life on hold for an indefinite amount of time.

Cranleigh, £1.750 on with Strutt & Parker

  1. Be ready. We realise we say this every time but it is so crucial. If you jump in your car and start viewing before you have all your financial side sorted ( your best position being under offer and ready to go) the dream house you find will slip through your fingers, as those with cash or who are ‘ready to go’ will seem more attractive to a seller.

Abinger, £1.6 on with Knight Frank

  1. Readjust your expectations. This is a really hard pill to swallow and I am sorry to put it out there but there is no such thing as the perfect house and we know, we house hunt for clients of all budgets. You are always tempted to think that an extra £100k/200k will get you everything you want but it probably won’t. Even those with eye wateringly good budgets compromise with something. It used to be said that a buyer would view a house and would be happy if it ticked 7 out 10 boxes on their wish list. Now buyers are looking for a home to satisfy all their requirements. Our advice is look more broadly, be open minded, don’t judge something that you have just seen online. An ugly house can always been altered.

Bramley, £1.395 on with Hill Clements

  1. Readjust your timescales. We are moving less frequently; owner-occupiers in England typically only change their address every 17.5 years. We have so many clients who want to buy the house and do it up within their current budget. But what if you took a different view? Look for something that you can afford now and that over time you will be able to extend or gut or rejig. Inspired by all the TV shows which shows places being transformed, we all hope to move out find the house and immediately turn it into the dream place. But if you are going to live there for 17 years, is waiting a couple of years to do the work not worth the wait whilst you gather your coppers?

Wood Street, £1.2 on with Burns & Webber

  1. Readjust the images you have in your head of what the dream house is. ‘No’ I hear you shout at the computer. In an age of glossy pictures of beautiful interiors filling your insta feed or in all the magazines we buy, showing us how to achieve the latest home trend, we have created a rod for our own back. We rule out houses instantly that don’t have the look we have created in our head. Currently out of favour with every client we met in 2017 was ‘beams’.

Chobham, £2.950 on with Strutt & Parker

Everybody we meet is after the same house. Open plan American style flow, large room dimensions with a side order of Scandi, high ceilings, big windows, a light and bright airy home.

But unlike London where Victorian terraces lend themselves perfectly to being opened up, and already have the high ceilings and wide rooms, the mixture of houses in the English countryside doesn’t on the surface match up to this ideal. Out in the sticks you’ll have at have use some imagination or a good architect to create this. Adding a fantastic glass extension to the whole length of the back on an old cottage can often do the trick but you may have to compromise on the wonky bedrooms floor or the smaller windows upstairs.

Houses built after the war to cater for the growing commuter population, don’t match up to what we visually as our dream country home. In our experience they are in fact the blank canvas equivalent of the Victorian terrace. These homes already have good footprints, with an bit of tweaking and extending they can cater for modern living and make wonderful family home with generous gardens and are often good proximity to the nearest train station.

In conclusion, if you want to be celebrating Christmas 2018 in your new country home, keep open minded and make sure you are financially fit for the race ahead.

All houses featured for sale as of 27/2/2018

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