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Cheltenham's Property Market

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Hasn’t the weather been beautiful throughout April? Just right for driving or walking around looking at properties if you are thinking of moving and also for getting your garden in order before putting your house on the market. If like me you are doing both, and you have a 150ft back garden the latter can be a mammoth task. But has the gorgeous weather helped the property market? Gavin Wallace at Isherwood’s thinks so.

He tells us that: “April has been a great month at Isherwood’s with the number of properties let at almost an all-time high and a number of sales and new instructions indicating definite signs of an upturn in the sales market. The fantastic weather has probably been a contributing factor! We are entering the summer period when local businesses recruit and relocate new staff and there is no doubt that large family houses to rent will be much in demand over the summer period. Demand in the lettings market generally is very healthy.

“There has also been an increase in buy to let enquiries this month and obviously increased investor confidence will benefit both sales and lettings departments. The sale of apartments which has been slower than house sales since Christmas will be much easier with the return of buy to let.

“We are now in the position of needing more sales and lettings stock to replace the properties which have left us. The good news is that valuations are also increasing and it looks as if we will have a busy summer!”

Phil Pugh at Philip Pugh & Partners agrees. “The feelgood factor is back!” he reports. “These past few weeks have seen a predominantly ‘buyers market’ swinging round towards a ‘sellers market’”, he said, “with existing house hunters deciding to take the plunge in considerable numbers, swelled by new applicants who for one reason or another feel that now is the time to buy and are also entering the market and making quick decisions. There are exceptions, of course, and some properties are still struggling to attract enough viewings in this transitional period, but generally the property market is extremely busy at present and a third of our recent sales have been agreed at - or above - the asking price. One wonders, however, if this recovery will be affected by the next scaremongering headlines or perhaps an interest rate hike, so sellers should perhaps make hay whilst the sun shines!“

There is certainly some scaremongering for first time buyers with this article in the Guardian.

“With rents on the rise mortgage lenders see landlords as a better bet than first-time buyers”, and Patrick Collinson asks if “a worrying bubble is being created in a resurgent market.

“Britain’s lenders are turning their backs on first-time buyers and other traditional borrowers”, he continues, “and granting mortgages to landlords instead amid signs of a new buy-to-let bubble.

“Northern Rock has joined an expanding list of lenders, including a Lloyds Banking Group subsidiary, pushing out new buy-to-let loans on better terms, while Santander is also preparing to enter the market. In an extraordinary admission, Nationwide – one of the biggest mortgage lenders – says it would rather give mortgages to landlords than first-time buyers.”

So will this create a different dynamic in society as well as in the market? If first time buyers can’t get on the property ladder then they will have no choice but to rent and move up market in rented properties. This may be good news for the resurgent buy to let market but not necessarily for those of us looking to move.

With many areas fast becoming a mixture of owned and rented property it makes potential buyers like me nervous. I like the whole community thing that comes from knowing your neighbours. But tenants come and go far more rapidly, often on short term leases as short as six months or even less, so are we in danger of losing that sense of community? You may disagree.

However, for newlyweds Prince William and Kate Middleton getting on the property ladder will never be a problem. Kate is about to complete a trade-up in the property stakes which others can only dream about, says the property website Zoopla.co.uk.

Following the royal wedding, Prince William and Kate will make Clarence House in central London their first official home - with more than 40,000 square feet in SW1. It is worth more than £47 million, says the website.

Although the young royals are the same age as the average first-time buyer (29 years old), their first marital home is worth 343 times the average newlywed starter-home (£137,000) in Britain.

Windsor Castle, valued by Zoopla at £171 million, will be their weekend country retreat, with more than 1,000 rooms and more than 484,000 square feet of living space.

While the success of Kate’s parents’ mail order business has afforded them a five-bedroom home in the desirable Berkshire village of Bucklebury, Kate will be leaving the home in The Avenue, where prices average £790,951 and range from cottages worth £470,000 to detached houses at more than £1.5 million.

If and when the future King William and Queen Catherine finally take up permanent residence at Buckingham Palace, they will occupy the world’s most valuable residential property - currently valued at more than £982 million by Zoopla.

Its 600 rooms include 19 state rooms, 52 bedrooms, a cinema, swimming pool, helipad and its own post office and police station.
But even royal occupants have seen their housing wealth take a hit in recent years.

Zoopla.co.uk reckons Buckingham Palace has fallen in value by £95 million (8.8%) since 2008, while Windsor Castle and Clarence House have each lost £27 million and £4.5 million respectively over the same period.

Nicholas Leeming, business development director at Zoopla.co.uk, said: “Kate is not only landing her prince but also getting a dream property portfolio at the same time.

“Luckily for the young royal couple, they will not need to secure a mortgage before moving into their new digs, as even they might find it a challenge in the current lending climate and on William’s RAF salary.”

And they won’t have do their own gardening either!