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Buyer demand remains undiminished

Buyer demand remains undiminished
Property expert believes sales are only restricted by the number of homes coming to market

In line with current government guidance, the property market is still operating as all activities associated with moving house are still permitted provided all appropriate safety guidance is followed. This includes home appraisals, Home Report inspections, viewings, mortgage applications, offers accepted and home moves, including cross-borders.

But what is the property market like right now and is it a good time for first-time buyers?

Ken Thomson, Partner and Head of Residential Property at Thorntons, believes it is buoyant, making it an ideal time to sell, but cautions first-time buyers to avoid paying an inflated price for a property that they plan to sell again in a few years.

Ken said: “We’ve witnessed an immediate and sustained mini-property boom since the market reopened in June 2020. There’s been such a pent-up demand fuelling the marketplace that in some areas has meant supply has struggled to meet demand.

“This has led to an increase in prices for all properties from small flats to top-end homes, which in some areas of Scotland, including Edinburgh and the Borders, have been significant. The year on year average price rise to the end of December was 6.8% in Dundee and Angus, 6.5% in Perth and 5.3% in Fife.

“Sales are only restricted by the number of homes coming to market but the demand from buyers has remained undiminished and first-time buyers have played a large part in driving the market.

“Part of this has been, in part, due to the availability of Government Assistance through the Help to Buy ISA scheme. This has now closed to new savers and has been replaced in part by the slightly less attractive Lifetime ISA scheme.

“The First Homes Fund, a shared equity scheme providing cash loans of up to £25,000 to assist in the purchase of a first home, has also proved hugely popular. This scheme was closed to applications in October, but has now re-opened for applications to assist with purchases that will complete on or after 1st April 2021.

“Assistance may also still be available to new buyers under the LIFT Open Market Shared Equity Scheme. Funding is limited and is subject to maximum price thresholds that are fixed by reference to the number of rooms in the house being purchased, and the area within which it is being purchased – but it could provide a welcome boost.

“To gather more information on these schemes, and get assistance with applications, prospective buyers should speak to a Mortgage Adviser.”

“Another current incentive is the fact that Land & Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) is not payable where the purchase of a property is at a price of £250,000.00 or less. That currently leads to a saving for buyers of up to £2100.00 but that only applies to purchases that complete on or before 31st March 2021.

A significant concern for first time buyers is the deposit and increasing prices in the current market means larger deposits. There was a concern last year when some of the major mortgage lenders pulled their maximum lending back to 85% of the value of the property being purchased. Finding 15% of the value of the property plus the sum necessary to pay a premium over valuation to secure a property means finding a significant sum.

Ken added: “Fortunately, most lenders have reversed their policy and will now lend 90% – and in some cases more – plus mortgages are relatively cheap because interest rates are so low. Costs can be fixed by choosing fixed-rate products to protect against rising interest rates in the short to medium term.

“Ultimately, I believe there is never a bad time to get onto the property ladder but if there is a word of caution for first-time buyers, it is that that they do not pay an inflated price in a bullish market for a property that, as a first home, they may themselves be looking to sell again in three or four years’ time. But for sellers, this is a perfect time as you will be feeding demand.”

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