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2014: The right time to sell your house?

Sun 30 Mar 2014

2014: The right time to sell your house?

The property market is cranking into action, making 2014 a good time to buy a new home It may be easier to sell

your house in the year ahead than at any time in the past six years. As transactions increase and the "ripple

effect" starts to move out of London, more people are likely to take advantage of it. The property market is,

however, full of fault lines. It is hard for first-timers to buy, second-steppers feel trapped and affordability may not

improve until wages increase.

Laura Fennell and her partner Alison Richards put their house on the market exactly a year ago. They built it

themselves in 1999, on an old orchard next to a marina on the Grand Union Canal at Cheddington in

Buckinghamshire. Now, with good reason, they believe that market conditions have improved enough for them to

sell it. After 12 months in the doldrums, Cedarwood House is attracting viewings and offers.

Their creation is extraordinary in its simplicity, a barnlike structure with a first-floor veranda sweeping along one

side, overlooking the canal, their boat, the swans and the ducks. It won a Royal Institute of British Architects

award in the "spirit of ingenuity" category, cost 285,000 to build (including the price of the land), and they gave

up their jobs to do it. You may well wonder why the house is now on the market with Fine & Country (020 7409

4673) at 695,000.

Living beside the water wasnt enough. Laura and Alison want to launch themselves on to the water. They are

shedding their stake in the property market to spend the next two years or so roaming the canals in a 62ft narrow

boat called Large Marge. "We wont have to make decisions. It will be straight on all the way," says Laura. They

will watch the water voles along the muddy banks, potter through huge landscapes, wobble over aqueducts, see

the industrial backside of great cities and peep into thousands of back gardens.

"We are just on the coat-tails of the golden generation which benefited from repeated housing booms," says

Laura. "But we dont want a lot of material things. We want to enjoy the time we have got. When you have to

remember to get water and think about what to do with your waste, you are closer to the basics of life." The year

ahead for them is full of promise, and it could be for many others too. The forecasts keep being revised upwards.

The Office of Budget Responsibility has adjusted its predictions of five-year house-price growth to 2018 from 15

per cent to 27 per cent, while Knight Frank has set it at a more restrained 24 per cent. More important to anyone

selling is the forecast that transactions will rise by 12 per cent for each of the next two years. Things should get

easier.

And for once it isnt just London that will see prices rising. LSL, which owns Your Move and Reeds Rains,

reported rises for the first time in three years in all regions. The highest was 26 per cent in three months in East

Anglia.

The question everyone keeps asking is whether there is a price bubble developing? Apparently the increased

activity isnt enough to cause concern. "Transactions, which are a better index than prices, are well down on

pre-crisis levels," says Mark Hayward, head of the National Association of Estate Agents. "And recent price

increases are small in comparison to the rapid rises seen before the financial crash. Inevitably, prices in London

and the South East may heat up, but in the rest of Britain the revival is likely to be much more tepid." Renters in

London routinely experience what Cluttons identifies as "house price anxiety" with 35 per cent of tenants in zones

one and two worrying about whether they will ever get on the ladder. Marsh & Parsons has proved their fears are

justified it reports that the price of a one-bedroom flat in a prime London zone has gone up by 60,000 in a year.

The Help to Buy scheme will support some into ownership but buyers need to be aware that interest rates could

rise, which would make repayments difficult.

Research by Hamptons International shows a trend of house movers getting on the ladder by moving out of the

capital, but by no more than 20 to 30 miles. Its report shows that around 27 per cent of all moves out of London

are made by those in the 30 to 40-year group, with a spike among 32-year-olds. "In the last three months the

number of London buyers registering with our country offices has increased by 12 per cent," says Marc Goldberg,

head of sales at Hamptons. More new homes are being built. The National House Building Council says 24 per

cent more were registered in the autumn compared with last year, and the Government promise of 1billion to

unlock stalled developments should bring more to the market.

Fanon Bokoko, 35, and Nikolett Varga, 28, have just bought a flat in a development called Renaissance by

Barratt in Lewisham. They paid 210,000, putting down a 10,500 deposit and getting a 95 per cent mortgage

with the Help to Buy scheme. "A contemporary apartment and a valuable investment," says Fanon. Now that

foreign buyers finally have to pay Capital Gains Tax when they sell their London purchases, they might think

twice about selling at all. But it wont put them off buying because they will only incur the tax on gains made after

April 2015. Foreigners make up 28 per cent of buyers in prime London areas and London will continue to be a

leading global market.

"This is the least worst outcome for prime London and means that there will be no mass sell-off as foreigners

crystallise past gains, and little incentive to exit," says Lucian Cook of Savills Research. "The gap between the

price of luxury homes in central London and the country is at its widest in several decades," says Oliver Knight of

Knight Frank. "A country property valued at 1million in late 2007 is now worth 800,000. A London home worth

1million in 2007 has increased by 230,000 over the same period." One-bedroom flat in Astonbury Manor, a

Grade I Tudor house in 17 acres near Stevenage, Hertfordshire, 249,995, Putterills (01438 817007). The Jungle,

with four bedrooms, St Ives, Cambridgeshire, 550,000, Bidwells (01223

841842).

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