Why are there so few properties to buy in Bath?
An excellent question and one we are asked daily by both buyers and sellers – often with more than a tinge of frustration at present! Buyers report searching across wide areas of the city for months and only seeing a handful of available homes, most of which are gone in a flash.
We have highlighted this trend in available properties regularly in our monthly local market surveys over the past three years and currently there are a grand total of 334 homes available across the city (BA1 and BA2 postcodes). This is in sharp contrast to the pre-pandemic average of 832. It is also the lowest supply recorded in Bath since at least 2008 and even the height of the 2017 boom saw more homes available locally.
Looking slightly wider afield, the South West region recorded the biggest national drop in available stock between Jan 2020 and Jan 2022 – from 41,970 to 18,740.
However, the answer to the question isn’t a simple one, or so we believe. We’ve come up with nine potential reasons below but do let us know what you think;
Supply isn’t low, properties are just selling fast
There is some evidence to back this up – there may only be 334 homes currently available in Bath but there are over 800 currently Under Offer and the local median selling time is 27 days, the fastest recorded since mid 2017.
Lack of new homes being built
Government house building targets have been missed year after year since the 1980s and the last few years have been no exception. The pandemic has added further delays with working time lost and shortages of materials. The problem is not only volume but also the type of properties being built – if we look back locally at developments since 2000, very few have been affordable homes so both first time buyers and downsizers have missed out.
Fear of not finding the next step
This is the single biggest complaint we hear from owners at valuation and is holding hundreds of local sellers back from entering the market. Putting your own home on the market is a big leap of faith if you can’t see where you might land. Added to this, we encounter a lot of typical British unwillingness to inconvenience others.
Widening affordability gap
The most striking gap in prices in Bath is between small family homes and the “forever home”. If you’re looking to upgrade from a 3 bed terrace to the next level, you might be adding another 200 – 300k to the budget if you can find anything at all.
Increased demand from out of town
Whether you call it the “race for space” or a post pandemic exodus from the bigger cities, Bath has seen a huge increase in out of town buyers adding to the local demand. Many of those buyers arrive with bigger budgets or more available cash than locals as well.
Probate and renovation delays
Probate properties are a cornerstone factor for property supply but grants of probate have been significantly delayed during Covid. In the same vein, property development and renovation has been delayed by Covid related trades and material shortages.
Increased confidence in purchasing
Although the pandemic caused many delays, the demand for property received a huge boost in 2020 and 2021 thanks to Mr Sunak’s Stamp Duty holidays. Did this bring forward some sellers desires to move, resulting in less available after the holiday ended?
Lack of churn in the market
Many buyers are also sellers, keeping the market moving along on an even keel in terms of units traded. However, last year a third of buyers were first timers and 10% were buy to let investors which is a huge chunk of single unit transactions.
Concern over flats
Apartments have been the hardest hit property type in recent years, both with Covid and also the effects of the Grenfell tragedy. Whilst other sectors of the market are rocketing away, there are now more flats on the market than at any time in many years. Is the concern over buying flats disrupting the traditional “housing ladder” and compounding the supply crunch for larger homes?