The last 12-18 months have been strange for everyone, with repercussions that are being felt across every sector. Oakfield’s Director Paul Skuse recently caught up with Dan Harris, Partner at Knight Frank Bristol, to find out what’s been happening in the property market and where it is going to go next…
Author | Paul Skuse, Oakfield Design & Creation
The last 12-18 months have been strange for everyone, with repercussions that are being felt across every sector. Oakfield’s Director Paul Skuse recently caught up with Dan Harris, Partner at Knight Frank Bristol, to find out what’s been happening in the property market and where it is going to go next.
Since Covid hit, the way in which the property market reacts to events has changed. Before, property sales followed a cyclical shape: these were seasonal, with peaks in the Spring, post-Summer, September and October, and troughs in August and December. Now the market is very much led by what is happening in the wider world, with people picking up the latest stories in the news in relation to lockdown and more as it happens.
“Rather than ebbing and flowing, the market is reacting far more precisely and far faster than it ever has before and it is very difficult to see the shape of it from week to week. As an agent, you have to be on your absolute top form to make sure you are ready and prepared for pretty much anything. It is far more reactive, and similar to other territories and more mature markets, like the financial markets that tend to react very quickly to events. The housing market seems to be led much more by the macro-economic and political environment more than ever before.”
Having said that, there are still micro markets, and you cannot look at a city and see one story: there is a variety of stories from postcode to postcode and different parts of the city react in different ways. The agents’ skill is predicting how each area is going to develop and look for the places where there is likely to be strongest movement.
There are a number of ways sales agents can spend time analysing data and looking at the way the markets are moving to try and predict events going forwards. Take an area that is incredibly hot, like central Bristol, where prices have risen quite substantially over the last few years. Outside that, there might be an area where the prices are quite low by comparison, and it would be reasonable to suggest that there will be some adjustment there, perhaps an even greater adjustment than in another area where a warmer postcode is next to a hot postcode. Agents need to have a very good understanding of their local market to be able to spot and predict these adjustments.
“It is not just about looking on a map and looking at stats coming through, it’s about really looking, embedding yourself in the location. If you’re born and bred in Bristol, then you are already starting from a much stronger position, because you understand how these different markets work and how they behave.”
Before even looking at the visible indicators like delis, coffee shops and big brands moving to an area, agents are looking to read the market. They can see the potential of a space or an area from a number of viewpoints, including its socio-economic profile or existing and new transport links. Their skill is in looking at how an area is taking shape and predicting how that is going to develop. Once an area is established, then you tend to get the arrival of a thriving coffee shop, for example, and this embeds it even further.
Developers can accelerate that process – a good example of this is Bristol’s Wapping Wharf – by putting in coffee shops and independent brands, which help to identify the location and enable people to clearly understand it. Another example is the Chocolate Factory in BS5, which is helping to establish the development in the area. Others are following suit due to the fact that this is a very different product to what’s on offer in the neighbourhood: typically, back-to-back Victorian, two-up two-down terrace houses. The Chocolate Factory is a significant scheme, and it’s modern and unique. It will also feature a square and places for people to meet, and this will have a huge impact on the area, drawing people to it, not just locally but from elsewhere across the city.
One final crucial point is that sales agents see themselves as partners and that partnership starts right at the very beginning of every scheme. They are involved at every stage of the process and they are available to the client at all times. But they also have a role to play in coming forward with positive, useful and reliable stats, figures and research that can inform a development.
“The skill of an agent working in residential development consultancy is helping the client to create a development which is designed to meet demand so that when the development is brought to the market, we know even before we launch, that it will sell and sell well.”