Graham John

Ten key questions to understand where the property market is heading.

What is going on with the property market? Should I buy? Should I sell? Will it crash? Will I be safe? (Below I’ll share the Ten key questions I ask to understand it all.)

I imagine all of you have had at least one of those questions on your lips for a while and if you haven’t, likely will soon.

We seem to be awash with property experts, be they agents or observers. Journalists love to quote them, pretend to be them, they grab figures and charts from the ether and then tell us what is going to happen and why.

Within a few simple searches online I see articles telling me the market will rise over the next year and others say that it will fall . I see statements that ‘prices will crash’ and yet read others insisting that house prices continue to grow but at a slower rate.

How do any of us know what to believe?

Who is telling the truth?

What is really going to happen?

The truth is: no one knows! Not one of those articles tells a full picture. Not one is written by a person who can categorically tell you what is going to happen and I imagine few of the authors truly understand the market and what has and is driving it in any one direction.

What I do know is that nearly everyone writing predictions has an agenda. Nearly all of them have a point they want to justify, a narrative and they write to embellish their point of view; whether or not it actually helps build broader understanding.

Context, perspective, information, discussion, analysis and understanding; these are the keys to illuminating the topic, to helping everyone get a balanced view.

I’ll paraphrase Lao Tzu: ‘Give someone a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach someone to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.’

Nearly every property article you read is giving you a fish. (Some have gone off!)

Let me see if I can start to help teach you how to fish for insights on what the market is and will do.

To begin to understand the property market there are ten key questions you need to ask and get answers to.

  1. What constitutes a healthy market? (You can define it with a number.) What does it take to achieve that?
  2. What is a normal market? When did we last see one and when will we next see one?
  3. What is happening socially with attitudes towards property and what impact does that have?
  4. What 2 – 3 year period is mainly responsible for creating the property market we know today and why?
  5. What patterns exist within the property market and how do we recognise them?
  6. Why are comments relating to ‘The last twelve months’ or to a defined period often misleading?
  7. Why is talk of ‘the Brexit effect’, ‘the post covid market’ or the stamp duty effect’ misleading and to what degree?
  8. What is the difference between asking prices and selling prices? Why does it matter and why is commentary on them also often misleading?
  9. If selling prices have grown at an alarming rate over the last two years is a slow down in house price growth a signal of a problem or a sign of common sense?
  10. If people are talking of recession how different is today to 2008 or 1990 (in property you should be looking to 1988) or 1973 and why?

I can keep on listing questions beyond these and I can embellish each question. Cost of living, mortgage rates, world factors, political issues, job security – so many topics have relevance to building understanding. Once you have answers you must rationalise them.

In 2021 less than ten percent of homes sold, or over ninety percent of homeowners didn’t move (if you are buying a ‘home’ you are intending to settle and stay). Figures from August 2021 suggest that 74 percent of homeowner mortgages are on a fixed rate.

For me, the sad thing is that I never read an article today that alludes to the bigger broader picture to provide context because, in a world of diminishing attention spans, who would read the article? Perhaps people who are interested?

After nearly forty years working in the property market, with I don’t know how many of thousands of home moves I’ve helped people make, with the tens of thousands of conversations I’ve had; I still can’t tell you what the future holds but I can tell you that, if you have answers to the ten questions above, you will have a better insight and understanding than most of the property gurus and ‘influencers’ strutting their stuff online. You will be better placed to make an informed decision that is relevant to you.

News has a habit of following the herd. When all is good with property we only get stories of up up up. When times are getting tougher everything turns to doom doom doom.

We all know life isn’t that simple, that straightforward.

Life isn’t black and white. Perhaps, because I am colour blind I am used to seeing shades, a different picture than most perceive.  This isn’t an easy time to be living or working in, but everything feels a little better when you have proper answers.

We are all unique individuals. We have different interests, drive different cars, or don’t have cars at all. We choose different ways of investing, have different attitudes towards risk, we have different lives and therefore the choices we should make over the coming days, weeks, months and years are uniquely individual. Make them from an informed position not in reaction to headlines or biased commentary be it well meaning or not.

Even those out there trying to help are speaking from their perspective; that isn’t necessarily wholly aligned with yours. Take time to consider, analyse, understand and then make decisions based upon your needs, your concerns, your hopes and your desired outcome for your future.

Looking back through the decades too many people have reacted to something in a way that, with hindsight, they would have chosen differently. We don’t have the benefit of hindsight before we make a choice but we do have the ability to question, to learn to analyse to prepare in order to make the most informed choice, to make our own choice.

Get multiple viewpoints, get information before you decide what is right for you and your family. It should be your choice not someone else’s if at all possible.

Don’t hide from the news but don’t panic at a headline. The one thing that is more obvious today than ever before: even the experts don’t know what is going to happen. We don’t always make the right decisions in life but I am pretty sure that the people who spend time to answer the right questions, the ones who learn as much as they can are more likely to make better decisions.

If you are on the market trying to sell your home or are thinking about selling, question what your agent is telling you; is the advice biased towards them hitting targets or is it truly focussed on helping you decide what to do with your main financial asset, with your life. Did their original advice start from a place of what was sensible and right for you. If an agent tells you to reduce your price, is the price genuinely the issue or is it their marketing, or worse, was their original advice driven by their needs not yours and in some instances you must ask, did your own desires influence the advice you were given?

Learn, analyse and decide. The correct choices to make are yours alone and the only person who truly knows what you must do is you! Good people out there will help you gather information, will advise, but they can’t be you, they can’t know how you feel, what you need, what will truly be best for you.

We are in for difficult times, that isn’t a surprise or a shock to people by now but, (born in the sixties) having lived through the seventies, the eighties, the nineties, the noughties etc, I do know that life goes on, we have the ability to adapt, to survive and even to thrive, particularly with a long term view.

Time for you to go fishing and if you have questions I haven’t mentioned, please let me know what they are, I’m interested to hear them and perhaps I can help answer them; as I can answer those ten above.

Those who know me well will have heard them answered on more than one occasion. Sometimes I tell people not to move, sometimes to wait, sometimes to stick to their guns and sometimes to make a change and get on with it.  You are unique and so is the path you will take.

PS – Yes I know there are more than ten questions above. Do you really think an Estate Agent can limit themselves to just ten and do keep an eye on our blog for answers to the questions. You can get in touch in person and we’ll help answer them.

To read more on each of those questions:

1: What Constitutes a healthy market?

2: What is a normal market?

3: What is happening socially with attitudes towards property and what impact does that have?

 

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4 Comments

  1. Amazing article Matt. Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge and for your common sense approach to what could be difficult times ahead. Really appreciated.

  2. Hi Matthew,
    lovely article that gave me pause for thought. It’s true everybody’s situation is unique, and all those housing market punters out there are certainly selling their points of view.

    As a student of history, I found question 10 particularly interesting and would love to read/hear more on the topic.

    Thanks for your wise words Matt!

    • Thanks Soti! I’m writing the articles for the questions one by one. Number ten is a favourite of mine! I’ll let you know when I have finished putting pen to paper on that one.

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