This is a question that is often asked of Estate Agents. And, almost without exception, Estate Agents will answer: “YES!”. That is because the question is like asking a sweet shop owner if now is a good time to buy sweets, or a tobacconist if it is a good time to buy cigarettes. It is, especially if you are the tobacconist.
The truth of the matter is that Estate Agents need buyers and sellers in roughly equal measure.
If there are more sellers than buyers, then an Agent may have lots to sell, but will see properties stay on the market for a long time, and might well see house prices fall. This is good for first time buyers, or those who have already sold their house, but not so go for those needing to sell… unless they find a buyer, in which case they might well have their pick of homes to move in to.
Alternatively, if there are more buyers than sellers, properties sell quickly and prices may rise, but the agents will find it much more difficult to get homes to sell. This can be great for those downsizing, or people moving to different areas where there are more homes for sale, but for those buying a bigger house in the locality, the increase in their new home may well outstrip the increase in the one they are selling… and for first time buyers, it makes it that much harder to afford a home of their own.
Seasonal trends and property speculators
It is true that there are general trends in house prices. Prices tend to go up in the late spring and summer, and peak around the end of the school holidays. In late autumn, through to spring, the market generally quietens down, and often prices fall away a little. These, though, are only general tendencies – specific things, from interest rate changes, to global political crises, to such things as the World Cup finals, can affect these patterns. If you are buying as a property investor, then the timing of a purchase might be a consideration. Equally, it may be possible to sell your home, rent for a little while, and buy later with cash in the bank, if such strategies appeal or are appropriate to your circumstance. But such speculation is relatively rare, and is, in any case, not without an element of risk.
For most people – a house is a home!
The vast majority of buyers and sellers live in the houses they are buying and selling. They aren’t just houses, in fact – they are homes. Your home is an investment of sorts… it is an investment in your lifestyle. It is where you eat and sleep. Where you kick off your shoes at the end of the working day. It is where you bring up your kids, and entertain your friends. It is the venue for your live, your loves, your personal triumphs and your private dilemmas. It is your security, your refuge, your intimate place away from the worries of the world around you.
Sure, you can buy a house, but you can’t buy a home. A home is something you make, within the bricks and mortar of the building you live in.
The right time is a personal decision
It’s true that buying a home is the biggest financial decision that most people ever make. But it is not just a financial decision. If you are looking for a two bedroom house, for example, you aren’t just looking for the cheapest one you can find. It has to be in a suitable location. It has to be within your budget to buy and furnish. It has to be suitable for your specific needs. And, very often, it has to have that intangible something, that feeling that it’s the right place for you.
The same comes to selling and moving on. If you are thinking of selling your home and finding a new one, you will have your own reasons. Maybe you have a new job, or the size and dynamic of your family has changed. Maybe you have a new partner, or a new baby, or you need an office space to work from home. Perhaps you are downsizing, or starting afresh after some difficult times. Perhaps you need a change. Perhaps you just feel that the time is right.
So… is it the right time to move? Only you know!
The point is, whether it is a good time to buy or sell is not something that you can learn from an Estate Agent, or from the financial pages of a newspaper, or the advice of a tax accountant or investment manager. Yes, these professionals can offer their opinion of the market, of the best way to structure finances, of the likely peaks and troughs of the house-price rollercoaster. But the only people who really know whether it is a good time to move, are you and your family.
Of course you should seek professional advice. Of course you should discuss things with those you trust, and whose opinions you value. But, ultimately, have the courage to make your own decisions, and have faith in your own instincts. The chances are that, deep down, you will know whether it is the right time to move… not because the market is going up or down, or because it is winter or summer, or the economy is turning or interest rates are on the move… but because now is the right time for you and your family. And that’s what matters most.