A department by department overview of the Guernsey market in 2013 and forecasts for 2014
Guernsey’s local property market is still proving to be in a reasonably solid state, albeit activity levels continue to fall year on year.
Indeed, 2013 was a harder year for selling than at any time since 2008/9. Our stats suggest there were in the region of 770 sales on the LM, compared to 810 in 2012 – down about 5%. At the same time, the total value sold was substantially down – sales totalled £402m in 2012 and £342m in 2013 – a drop of about 15%.
Notably, the top end of the market (sales over £1m+) were significantly down. Again, our stats suggest there were 35 such sales in 2012 and 19 in 2013 – a substantial fall. Whilst some might argue that this latter stat is not directly relevant to the remainder of the market, we should point out that many of the £1m+ Vendors are wanting to downsize and so, if they could sell their own property, they would in turn purchase properties at a lesser value, which would the assist the flow through of sales across the board.
Interestingly, the most active area of the market was sub £400,000 – probably the only Vendor driven sector of the market at present, where demand is higher than supply. Investors are still keen to find a safe haven for their money that also provides a “greater than inflation” return and property still seems to be a good long term option in this regard.
We have said before that owner occupiers who might want to move up the property ladder are finding it tough to borrow more money, particularly when they have insufficient equity or savings to make a major move upwards. Whilst there seems to be a greater number of mortgage products on the market now than in recent times, there is little evidence to suggest that Banks are actually willing to relax their lending criteria, with anecdotal reports indicating that buyers are being forced to jump through ever increasing hoops to satisfy requirements. This, coupled with the general economic nervousness against a backdrop of frozen wages, some redundancies in the finance sector, and an increasing cost of living means that many buyers are taking stock of their own circumstances at the moment.
Looking ahead, and as we write this article in early February 2014, we would normally expect this year to be similarly challenging, certainly for at least the first 6 months or so. It is hoped that continuing confidence returning to the market, coupled with a greater willingness on the part of the Banks to lend (in terms of volume of loans and LTVs) will help stimulate the market as the year progresses.
That said, and in complete contrast to 2013, January has seen a phenomenal start regarding interest and offers over £1m. To date we have negotiated two sales over £2m and a further 5 at over £1m. Assuming these sales are successfully concluded, that would represent one third of all such properties sold across the Island last year. Obviously it is hoped that these sales, and more throughout the year, can create a chain reaction throughout the LM – the ripple effect could really help kick start the property market in general. With a further 25 sales at sub £1m also agreed through Swoffers as we type, the signs are certainly encouraging…
The number of sales in 2013 held steady virtually mirroring those in 2012. Swoffers continued to show their dominance in the market carrying out half of all sales, the majority being over £2 million. Homes sold ranged from modest terraced homes to luxury apartments and superb residences nestling in substantial grounds. Those sold by us included a number of ‘Confidential Instructions’, a medium which many of our Vendors have come to embrace as a low level way of selling their homes with the minimum of fuss and total discretion.
The number of properties coming onto the market continued to increase throughout 2013 which meant that the quality, variety and price ranges on offer were perhaps some of the best we have seen in recent years giving potential purchasers the opportunity to view a wide selection of homes across the spectrum. This included the launch of two luxury developments, ‘One St Julian’s Avenue’ and ‘Les Residences’ both available via Swoffers. Situated at opposite ends of the Island they offer superb sea views and either glorious sunrises or sunsets and both provide the chance to purchase off-plan with a leisurely completion date.
The influx of new instructions during the year had the opposite effect for Vendors. Whereas in most years there would be less than 100 properties on the market at any given time that number swelled to around 200 making for testing times. With slightly less than 60 properties sold in the whole of 2013 it meant that Vendors needed to make speedy decisions on receiving an offer in order to secure a successful sale and show flexibility with regard to price something which will need to continue in 2014.
Managing Director, Matthew Henry says ‘the second half of the year saw a number of good quality enquiries coming in which we are confident will turn into sales in 2014. Properties sold towards the end of 2013 and completing in January 2014 gave us the best start to a year since 2010. Seven properties changed hands for a total of £24.5m with Swoffers securing over half of those sales. In addition we captured 74% of the market by price – a trend we hope to repeat as the year goes on.’
Do please give us a call if you are thinking of selling this year.
The wealth of experience in Swoffers Letting and Management team has been well utilised during 2013 and has enabled us to remain extremely active and effective in both the Local and Open Market rentals sector during a challenging year.
Quarters one and two of 2013 saw similar results to those experienced in 2012 with medium to low activity levels in all sectors of the market. However, during the last two quarters of the year we saw interest increase at mid-lower levels. As the UK economy started to show signs of improvement towards the end of 2013, this filtered through to Guernsey with the numbers of licence holder enquiries increasing.
In this very early stage of 2014, we have continued to see promise and we feel that the market up to £2,500 per month will remain active.
With fewer new buy-to-let properties being sold in 2013, prospective tenants instead had to look towards those properties already available. This, combined with an increase in recruitment activity locally and a consequent rise in the number of local Housing Licences being issued, has resulted in fewer properties being available for potential tenants.
The market remains relatively strong and we would hope to see further enquiries in higher value rental properties during 2014.
Over 40 Open Market houses were let by Swoffers in 2013 this would indicate similar levels to those of 2012. This has been helped by the high demand from families and groups of friends seeking a home to share. Landlords have been more willing to consider this option (which some have dismissed in the past) as these groups of applicants are very well motivated to secure a long term home and often make very good tenants – provided that the agent has collected a raft of references and done everything possible to satisfy themselves and the landlord that they are a strong, cohesive group who are willing to look after each other and the property. Swoffers frequently manage tenancies of this nature.
The active levels in the market have been at the lower to middle sector though Swoffers have negotiated one or two notable exceptions at the very top end. At the start of 2014 there is a good selection of rental property available in all sectors of the market.
So in general terms both markets have held up quite well within these turbulent times. Landlords have adjusted and become more realistic and flexible on rental values to secure tenants. Investors continue to be frustrated by the low returns on their money from the banks and still see investment in the property market as a good option. Purchases include modern apartments and family houses, the latter traditionally has been less well supplied in the past. Both types have let well in 2013 with rents of most investment properties showing a 3% to 5 % gross yield.
Swoffers offer a full and comprehensive management and lettings service. We make a clear distinction between each of these with dedicated teams to serve each section including a full team of property managers. Many landlords have opted for full management services this year and we feel that this trend will continue. It is not only cost effective but it takes the hassle out of looking after your property and gives comfort to the landlord and tenant who can both call on the experience of our professional Swoffers Management Team. Having a competent, dedicated, reliable property manager looking after your assets really does pay dividends.
Whatever your rental enquiry, we will be happy to help you. We look forward to another productive year!