Is It Spring Time For Property Investment?

It is worth bearing in mind that, despite the property market being in the doldrums for the last 5 years, property investment as with all other markets, goes in cycles.

If you think of the property investment cycle as seasons in the year, we have been in winter for the last few years.  But the daffodils are starting to bloom and it looks like we may now be in spring – at least in terms of property investment. It may still be chilly, but it’s definitely getting warmer.

Pent up demand from first time buyers, low interest rates on savings and the banking crisis in Cyprus mean more people are turning to property as a safe haven. And this is particularly true of the British property market.

Britain is one of the most established property markets in the world, especially in terms of property investment financing. It is very different in terms of property supply and demand from other countries such as USA, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Dubai where the property prices were inflated because of demand caused by the perceived profits to be made (greed) and the sudden availability of easier borrowing rather than actual demand for accommodation to live in.

The UK market is very different.  I do not think there is any doubt more housing is required for the UK population. Without boring you with stats, for well over a decade, every survey I’ve seen has reported there is a massive shortfall in the amount of housing required to keep up with demand.  Further, the rate at which new houses are being built falls far, far short of predicted requirements. So the gap is widening every year.

It is interesting to note that every time The House Crowd buys a property – typically for about £50,000 – the rebuild costs for insurance purposes are upwards of £80,000 and often closer to £120,000. What that tells me is that if the cost of building new property is considerably more than existing stock (land values aren’t even taken into account in the example above).  Common sense suggests that few people will buy a new build property, when they can get a similar sized property for half the amount.  It is equally clear that developers aren’t going to build property unless they believe people will buy what they have to sell. And just to reiterate it: there is a shortage of housing which increases demand for available property.

It’s a complex relationship and there are differing viewpoints on how it works, but I believe that fairly soon builders will start building again in earnest. Once they start doing so, the price of old stock will be pulled up by the price of new builds as sellers realize they can achieve higher selling prices whilst still pricing their property competitively against new builds.

There are tentative signs that the property market is already beginning to warm up – you may well have seen the news headlines about average property prices now increasing at £25 a day. One factor for this is new investors putting their money into property as they are tired of the woeful returns provided by the banks and pension companies. We have noticed buy to let lending is becoming more readily accessible in the last 6 months.

But that is nothing compared to what will happen next year when the new government incentives kick in, giving buyers the ability to get on the housing ladder without raising a 20% deposit.

One thing I have learned throughout my time in property is not so much the price of a property but the affordability factor that is the biggest influence.  People’s income, the deposit required, the ratio income to borrowing permitted and interest rates all play a much bigger role than the actual price tag.

The government incentives coupled with low interest rates will have a massive affect and greatly increase the demand for property pushing prices higher (although salary levels will keep the increase in check to a degree)

That may be good bad or dangerous depending on your point of view. Some argue that it will create another bubble – and they may well be right. But in terms of achieving capital growth over a relatively short space of time (say the next 5 years), I believe 2013 will prove to be the ideal time to invest into property.  So get your sun cream and your sunglasses out.  A bright hot summer for property investment is on its way… Shame we can’t say the same for the British weather.