Property market: time to buy or time to sell?

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Credits: The Telegraph; Caroline McGhie


On the hunt: Annabel and Mark Timberlake at their weekend cottage in Itchenor, West Sussex



Mark and Annabel Timberlake sold their house in Wandsworth a year ago and took their three children, aged between two and six, down to their weekend cottage in West Sussex to ride out the eye of the recession. Now they want to buy “the big family house” and they are seeking a home on the Sussex Downs near Chichester.

“We are ready to pounce,” Mark says, “but we are not alone. At the children’s school there are quite a few parents in the same situation who want to buy this year.” He isn’t anxious about the market. Either prices will drop and he will be in a stronger position, or they will rise and there will be more choice as people put their houses up for sale.

“I know of 10 to 20 other families who want to move in the next 12 months,” he says.

Mark runs the property management/concierge service so he is as prepared as he can be. He and Annabel have put their finances in order to buy “within days” if they find the right house.


“The problem is there is little for sale and what is on the market tends to be overpriced or has something wrong with it.”

Expert opinion: James Grillo, head of country houses, Chesterton Humberts: “We know a lot of people who sold their London houses in 2009 and the beginning of 2010 and have been renting as they wait for prices to come down. But now there is a shortage of good houses at £1m to £2m and they may start to feel a bit panicky.

“The wider economy may recover quicker than we thought it would.

”The prediction is that prices will rise by 15 per cent in the next three-and-a-half to four years. The first third of that time will be flat, but then rises may be quite quick,” he says. “I probably have around 150 potential buyers at this price level and guess there are around 3,000 to 4,000 in the South.”



Lizzy Wheller is an estate agent who has decided that this is the time to put her house on the market. With mortgage lending, transactions and prices at a low, why is she convinced the moment is right?

“As an agent, I know what buyers want. There is very little in this price range, so if you have something saleable and unusual, then people will want it. I want to hit the market when the house will stand out against the others.” The property is a bungalow that she bought in 2006 and rebuilt. It has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, two paddocks, a stream, two new stables, tack room and store. Fulfords (01392 660007) is asking £650,000. It is just outside the Dartmoor National Park in the village of Bridestowe in Devon.

At 63, Lizzy is thinking of retirement and a change in lifestyle. “A lot of people move from the South East and want a lifestyle ready-made like this. I can ride out onto Dartmoor from my back door,” she says.

Expert opinion: Adrian Wright, Private Property Search: “There are conditions attached to her optimism. There will be areas of the country affected by the austerity package, but the high-end luxury purchases are also affected. So it may not be as easy as she thinks.

”Anywhere with close links to the London market won’t be too bad. But properties that appeal to buyers who depend on mortgages will suffer and the second-homes market has dried up. If she really wants to sell and is careful about price, she will sell successfully.”



Bill and Maureen Finn are Londoners who have put their house in Kingston upon Thames on the market, hoping to catch City bankers with bonuses. They want to buy a rectory in Wiltshire, preferably within striking distance of Marlborough.

“We are empty nesters,” Bill says, who works as a fund manager. ”My wife wants to live in the country, so we will rent first to see if we like it.” They are both in their late fifties and Bill is planning to retire soon. Their house, Corner Cottage, has six bedrooms and is for sale at £1.95m with Savills (020 8971 8111).

“The City bankers will still come away with bonuses or share options next year, so they can afford to leverage themselves. In the first quarter we will see these high earners, in their thirties, just starting to have children, wanting to move out of their cottages in Wandsworth. We are in an ideal spot, with good schools and golf courses.”

His belief chimes with that of the National Association of Estate Agents, which says good addresses will continue to be sought after. The Finns also hope to release capital to help their two children get a foot on the housing ladder.

Expert opinion: Lucian Cook, head of residential research, Savills: “London and the South East are outperforming the rest of the country so the market is more fluid, which is good for downsizers like the Finns. Also, January web hits are, on average, 30 per cent higher than other months of the year.

“There may be some bonus money but not a glut. We think about £1bn will come out of bonuses into property,” he says. “If you have the equity, then this may be a good year to use it before 2012, when we may see house price growth.’’