One thing that has come out of lockdown has been the inexorable movement of West Hampstead households wanting to upsize to a larger home. Often considered to be first time buyer properties, the smaller 1st step on the property ladder one bedroom properties are selling quite well, yet demand for those properties on the 2nd and 3rd step rungs on the West Hampstead property ladder (i.e. the two or three bedroom homes) has been even greater.
This demand has been driven by West Hampstead buyers looking for more living space, especially those looking for an area or room to work from home (be that a bedroom, reception room or even an outbuilding converted into a study).
The average asking price of a 2 bed West Hampstead home is £715,100,
whilst a 3 bed West Hampstead home stands at £1,022,200
As you can see, quite a jump for an extra bedroom! The heightened contest for 2nd and 3rd step West Hampstead homes for that extra bedroom has pushed demand to a record in October for those looking to take the next step up the ladder. Historically, as a family and its household income grow, the need for more space has permanently been the No.1 reason for moving home, yet now there is a new need for additional space to facilitate people working from home. This means not only do we have growing families wanting larger West Hampstead homes, there are also the people needing the same larger homes for space for a home office. Therefore, looking at the current stats, as you can see, the West Hampstead property market is doing quite well…
21.2% of all 2 bed and 19.0% of all 3 bed homes
in West Hampstead are sold (subject to contract)
Roll the clock back to pre-Covid and ask any West Hampstead homeowner who had enough bedrooms for their children if they wanted an additional bedroom, and most homeowners would say that was very much a ‘nice to have’, yet not a ‘must have’. With us all being cooped-up over the spring this year, demand for additional rooms is at a high, with those presently looking for their next larger West Hampstead home are probably going to find that only offers close to (if not sometimes over) the asking price will be accepted.
Even though no properties sold during lockdown, putting the West Hampstead (and UK) property market on hold for many months, many more people buying their next West Hampstead home will have more than made up for it since lockdown was lifted as the portals have stated if the UK property market remains at its existing trajectory, then the number of properties sold YTD by the end of October 2020 will be greater than YTD October 2019.
Yet all these properties sold are causing another issue. Just because a property becomes Sold Subject to Contract (SSTC) doesn’t mean the property is actually “sold”. Before going into Covid, it was taking approximately 19 weeks from agreeing a sale price (and instructing lawyers) to completing the sale. Yet, because we are nationally running at 140% to 150% of properties SSTC (than where we normally are at this time of year), many of my estate agents colleagues are having to manage expectations with buyers and sellers, and tell them that the date they are going to move will take a little longer.
The elephant in the room is that the temporary stamp duty holiday ends on the
31st March 2021
It sounds an age away, yet trust me, nothing could be further from the truth. Adding an extra month for the additional homes in the bottleneck means even if the sale of your West Hampstead home was agreed today, that would take us to the 3rd week in March ... that’s cutting it very close for the stamp duty holiday.
It is so fundamental for buyers and sellers of West Hampstead homes to work meticulously with their estate agent, solicitor and mortgage lender. For example, there are less staff in the local authorities to do the local searches, bank staff are working from home meaning mortgages are taking much longer to get approved, and conveyancer/solicitors are snowed under with work. Therefore, if you get a document that needs filling in, are asked to provide documents, pay disbursements or questions need answering, do it immediately and without delay. A day here and day there will snowball and could mean you miss the stamp duty holiday … and that could cost you thousands and thousands of pounds.
The bottom line is that we haven’t seen this sort of pressure on the UK property market since 1987, when dual-MIRAS was abolished. Now, as we are slowly starting to come out of Covid, with many legal and banking staff working remotely or still on furlough, the perfect storm has occurred with unprecedented demand from buyers looking to move post lockdown. The best advice I can give is, as soon as you put your property onto the market, find a solicitor that has the capacity to work with you, then instruct that solicitor to start work immediately to prepare the paperwork, so once you have a buyer, things can move more smoothly and quickly. The last thing you want is to lose out on saving thousands of pounds by missing the stamp duty holiday by a whisker.