Bath – caught in a bubble?

From the bewildering array of house price surveys published every month, you might be forgiven for being a little confused on the current direction of the property market. The Halifax believes the market is “drifting downwards” nationally but expects “stabilisation towards the end of the year” yet the Nationwide survey is a full three points more positive. Neither base their figures on evidence beyond their own lending which, in a market full of cash buyers, gives seriously distorted findings.

Bath, like London and parts of the Home Counties, has always enjoyed a measure of protection from national trends. World Heritage status, excellent schooling, beautiful architecture and decent commuter links combine to make the city one of the most sought after destinations for homebuyers and Bath is regularly featured in Top 10 lists across broadsheets and internet surveys. However, one factor is constantly overlooked by local pundits – lack of supply. Having tracked the Bath market for many years, even we are surprised at the sheer lack of available homes in the area at present and we’re receiving calls every day from frustrated buyers.

H.M Land Registry figures show that, at the peak of the market in the summer of 2007, approximately 350 – 400 homes were being sold each month in Bath. Monthly figures since 2007 show transaction volumes dipping to between 100 and 200 per month on average (as we would expect from a recession hit period) and this year’s scores (January 111 sales and February 121 sales) are no different. However, it’s not lack of buyers keeping the figures low in 2011 – we are experiencing massive demand for any new instructions.

Although this might sound like a contradiction, there are 1246 properties currently for sale in the Bath area. Sounds like a lot? It’s less than half the stock we were dealing with before 2007. Rents have risen to such a stratospheric level that many Bath clients have chosen to stay put and we’re left with those who NEED to move – it’s not enough to satisfy demand from buy to let investors and job movers, let alone first time buyers.

Build more houses? Apart from the ongoing saga of the Western Riverside development, there’s no land for a project of any decent size and the planning issues would be legendary!

Bath - Lansdown

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