House price boom? That depends on the what and where


Rhian Waller

IF YOU have a house on the market right now, you may be in the wrong place for a quick sale.

House sellers in Wales and the North West will wait an average of 92 days to shift their property, which is the longest anywhere in the UK, according to Rightmove figures released this week.

Welsh house-sellers may be left twiddling their thumbs as the housing market picks up across the UK, with prices gradually rising in many parts (and rising steeply in London), but this could spell good news for house buyers in the area.

Louise Oliver, branch manager for Beresford Adams in Wrexham, said there was movement in the market.

She said: “I would say we have seen, at least in the last few weeks, a marked increase in activity.”

Martyn Haden, partner in charge of the sales department of Strutt and Parker in Chester, which covers Cheshire and North Wales, was more analytical.

He said: “Rightmove statistics send a confusing view of the housing economy. It all depends on where you are in the market.

“The average place gets evaluated at about £180,000 to £220,000 – and that’s where the majority of the activity is. Below that, the market is buoyant.

“Higher up the market, the more difficult it becomes to get an accurate picture.

“We aren’t seeing a significant change in prices, but that’s because we specialise in houses in the area of £500,000-plus.”

So, even if it is mid-range rather than the bigger properties that are being snapped up, does that mean prices are being driven up in the region?

Miss Oliver says: “Because the Wrexham area is so big, there’s an awful lot available on the market, so the prices aren’t climbing as they are in London.

“Because there are more homes available, the demand is not hitting sales. It’s still a buyer’s market here.”

Leigh Hayward, director of Wingett estate agent and auctioneers in Wrexham, said: “House prices in Wrexham – that depends on what you’ve got. Modern two-bedroom houses are certainly on the increase in terms of value in the last 12 months.

“They’re being purchased by first-time buyers and investors.

“It’s a different story with three and four-bed semi and detached houses. The demand is taking a while to work up to them.”

Obviously, Leader readers who flick through the pages of our property pages will be aware that some areas command higher prices.

The reasons for this are more complex than one town simply being “nicer” than another.

Miss Oliver said of the differences within Wrexham town: “People want walking distance. They want easy access to things like the train station. It’s more of an investor’s market inside Wrexham town centre because the property rents better for these reasons.”

Although Miss Oliver’s branch only covers Wrexham, Beresford Adams also has a presence in Chester.

She said: “It’s a very different market in Chester. The ‘higher rangers’ differ greatly. I think that’s because of the economic activity of the area.” Martyn Haden broadly agreed with this.

He said: “This is a big generalisation, but as a trend, people are moving out of rural areas. They want to be able to walk to the shops, walk to schools. So many of them are downsizing to urban areas.

“They want properties that are more convenient and that drives quick sales.”

More than that, Chester city commands a degree of status.

He said: “Chester is Chester. Historically, Chester has this reputation of being one of the jewels of the north. Whether that’s the case or not is for people to speculate.

“It’s got good links with London, Manchester and Liverpool; it’s more affordable than some parts of Cheshire and it’s got a good educational facilities.

“Chester also has an existing stock of valuable houses. It’s not unknown for a substantial house on the river to be valued for £1.5 million and up. The same amount would get you quite a lot in Wales, perhaps a small estate.”

The subject of how fast your property will sell, or how much it is currently worth, is obviously not just down to location, location, location.

Mr Hayward said: “If you have a house with something attractive, say, it’s a pretty cottage or has a big garden or something like that, then it will go.

“It’s actually quite difficult to gauge how much houses are worth because it’s such a mixed bag.

“A four-bed property in the middle of Wrexham might go for £185,000 while another one in a similar area could go for £280,000. It’s all down to people’s perception of a house’s value.”

Even within a single county, there can be a great deal of variation.

One thing to bear in mind is that these are not the days of Sarah Beeny’s Property Ladder-inspired home improvements adding £15,000 grand to the value of the house, followed by a quick sale.

Mr Hayward said: “If you’ve got what we call a ‘crystal finish’ house, modern kitchen, modern bathroom, new carpets, it will sell faster than one in need of updating. It won’t necessarily be worth more, however.

“But owners are not getting much more in sales, but they are the ones who will be able to sell and move on.”

See full story in the Leader

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