2018 was a year of political and economic uncertainty, causing a general reduction in transactional volumes, but it was still a good year for Martyn Gerrard as we maintained and, in certain areas, increased our market share and business turnover. Experience and expertise are fundamental to this, but also supporting this strong performance has been our significant investment into ground-breaking and innovative technologies to assist our clients and customers.
Systems like Vuze our Intelligent Tarageted Marketing, make sure your property is in front of the right audience. It’s this type of technology that enables a sale to be less reliant on property portals like Zoopla and Rightmove, which, whilst necessary, simply cannot do all of the heavy lifting alone when it comes to identifying the right home for the right buyer.
It’s understandable that the market is somewhat subdued, thanks to the turmoil caused by Brexit, but with our strong economic position the market generally looks set to remain fairly stable. There may be a small hiatus in prices over 2019, due to the unknown political landscape, however, life carries on. It is important to remember that people will always need to move home, which is proven by the fact that registrations at Martyn Gerrard have remained steady in recent months. So far in January they stand higher than the same time last year, and we are tying up more sales than expected.
Buyers and sellers must therefore keep faith in the UK’s housing market and not let a lack of confidence stop them going after the home they want. There are still plenty of opportunities in the market, and I encourage all buyers and sellers to remain active and get out there to see for themselves.
Throughout December and January, we saw an influx of buy-to-let and let-to-buy properties, as these markets remain buoyant. Not only is this helping support the sales market, but it has also meant a new flow of supply in the lettings market – extremely welcome given that demand is high and renters still heavily outnumber available properties. Lettings prices have been generally stable, but we do expect them to rise over the next year. This is partly due to the aforementioned supply and demand imbalance, but also as the tenant fee ban comes into force, which will mean landlords are forced to absorb a lot of new costs.
However, at Martyn Gerrard, while other agents continued to charge unwarranted and excessive admin costs, we have never charged tenants fees other than referencing fees. What’s more, since the introduction of Martyn Gerrard’s Nil Deposit Scheme in 2017, we have already seen over 200 applications. With this, landlords have six weeks deposit protection, as oppose to the 5 weeks maximum dilapidation deposits that will be allowed after the tenant fee ban introduction in April. Tenants have saved an average of £325+ VAT per property. We are confident that this will continue to change the way people rent, providing financial reassurance to tenants and landlords.
The past year has also seen me engage with a range of decision makers in Government, pushing for policy changes that will help support the housing market, and all those looking to buy, sell or rent, through these uncertain times.
In my view Stamp Duty remains one of the key hurdles to encouraging people to move home and up the property ladder. This is why I have been in discussion with both Government and industry figures over the potential benefit in switching the charge from buyer to seller – effectively making it a tax on your sale profits, and not on aspiration. This would also free up much needed cash for first time buyers, a Government priority, while costing them nothing.
In October, we saw the Chancellor, in the latest budget, pledge to make £1bn of British Business Bank guarantees available. Whilst this gesture was well-meaning, attempting to galvanise SME (Small and Medium Enterprises) developers to meet its target of 300,000 additional homes per year and provide more boutique type new flats and houses, it was critically flawed. The Government’s focus should have been on the inadequate and underfunded planning system that is stifling SME developers and stopping them being able to build.
This broken system is delaying the building of homes and pushing up prices. Fixing this broken system would go a long way to fixing our housing crisis, and to this end I have written to a number of key government figures in an attempt to draw attention to the issue, including Housing, Communities and Local Government Minister James Brokenshire and Home Secretary Sajid Javid. I have also met with local MP Mike Freer and Alistair Burt MP, and generating support for an overhaul or improvement of the current system will be one of my priorities for 2019.
Finally, I’ve also been roaming the halls of Westminster for an altogether more positive reason, as Martyn Gerrard were recognised by local children’s hospice Noah’s Ark as a major contributor. We have donated more than £50,000 over the last 5 years, and were invited to 10 Downing Street to meet with MPs and other leading charity figures to find out how we can best support the fantastic work they do. This provided an ideal opportunity to reflect on 2018, and think about what’s in store for 2019 – although what’s certain is that the market will remain full of opportunities for those looking to move home or make an investment this year, and I believe that Martyn Gerrard are best placed to assist you in your search for a home, buyer or tenant.