01JulyAs we enter the second half of 2014 Oliver Miles takes stock of the property market. We are midway through the property year and while the market seems to have steadied, once again property is clearly big news. The headlines in our press and often the lead items on television and radio news are the housing market and what it's doing or going to do. It is frustrating that so often journalists' comments refer to a market which does not really exist at all but rather is a homogenous mix of markets in the north, the south, the east and west - and that other country which is central London. In fact the property market is really made up of thousands of micro-markets. Also alarming statements about housing bubbles do not help much. Now the Chancellor, George Osborne, and Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, have prepared measures designed to halt a headlong dive into another housing crisis. But the increasing feeling of those who handle the property market every day for a living – estate agents - is that things might have already steadied themselves. Harsher mortgage lending criteria - that have already slowed the numbers of loans; prices - for many - reaching the top of their affordability range, and the sated pool of pent-up first and second time buyer demand all add to a dampening effect. Further up the market activity in higher price ranges can reflect uncertainty about future government taxation policies. This may grow as we approach the next general election. So these new Bank of England measures can be seen as a sensible precaution against future excesses rather than shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. Yes, we need more housing with the release of more Brownfield sites. We need to relax some planning bureaucracy and foster responsible lending – and borrowing. A more enlightened approach to bringing life to our high streets through a greater residential element may help also. All this will assist us in steering away from more boom and bust. There will be new challenges such as interest rates gradually increasing in a sensitively controlled way. But there is no reason why a small mortgage rate increase will harm the market in the short or medium term. In general - and taking central London out of the equation - we believe that the second part of the year will be much the same as the first - a balanced market with some really great opportunities for both buyers and sellers.
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