With all the pessimism surrounding the housing market, you would be forgiven for thinking that the whole thing had ground to a halt: no one buying, unless for a hefty discount, and no one selling, unless they are desperate.
But even in a bad climate, good homes sell - and not just multi-million pound palaces to oil barons. In a falling market, the puff surrounding properties is stripped away, leaving the bare bones of what makes a home, in any price range, recession-proof: factors such as prime location, great views and proximity to amenities.
In a sluggish market...
Buyers can afford to be choosier than ever about how many boxes their perfect property needs to tick - so stunning views without easy access to transport, or an architecturally striking house in an otherwise undesirable area are unlikely to make the grade.
Here are some of the YK DAILY'S pointers that are likely to make a property recession-proof:
The way in which men and women offer on property differs strongly; men often see the art of negotiation as a fight, and they’re up for it. Wielding their offer like a sword, they’re brutal and determined not to give an inch. Statistics show that only 5.5% of men pay the full asking price, and 22% offer less than 90% of the asking price. Women buyers, on the other hand, are much softer and 17% of them just offer the full asking price of the property they want. 90% of female buyers offer 10% or less below the asking price, seemingly anxious not to lose their chosen property.
With this in mind...
How can you make your property more appealing to that lucrative female market?
Never is location as crucial to a property's desirability as in a slow market. When buyers have the pick of the bunch, the compromises they are willing to accept with "emerging" areas suddenly become a sticking point.
In central London, international buyers keeping prime areas such as Hyde Park Gate and Kensington afloat. But less expensive areas can be enduringly desirable, if they offer good housing stock at an affordable price near reliable transport links and the City. The 'Battersea Diamond' off Queenstown Road, is always sought after. Its solid Victorian stock tend to sell quickly.
"Prime inner suburbs" of Hammersmith, Fulham and Islington, continue to perform well, as has Richmond in the south-west. "This reflects a 'flight to quality', a term which we can expect to see much in use over the next six months.
As for "recession-proof locations" in rural areas, the Cotswolds - first and second homes within striking distance of Cheltenham or Oxford, with good views, good schools and easy access to the motorway and train, easily commutable to London. Also Devon and Cornwall, which are buoyed by the second home market and downsizers moving west and in search of old rectories in 10 acres or waterside properties. And what I call Outer Surrey, beyond Guildford. Good village houses set down long driveways tend to be what buyers look for.
The other factors that make a location highly desirable are:
To live out of town but be able to tap into a thriving economy on a daily basis is what keeps areas such as Cobham in Surrey constantly in demand among wealthy buyers. Properties generally on average ranging from £700,000 to £5 million, It's a wealthy area, near the A3 and M25 so handy for airports. It's the key place people of a certain level who are moving out of London want to be.
The commuter towns of Esher, Oxshott and Walton-on- Thames are Surrey locations that shall always remain in demand, regardless of the national sentiment, ease of access to London and airports is the main reason. These locations attract international business executives who ensure a steady turnover of property. The area also has one of the best selections of schools in the country.
Combining commutability to London (90 minutes from Waterloo), outstanding beauty and nearby sailing on the Solent, the New Forest in Hampshire is highly sought after. Houses with waterside views over the Solent - of which there are very few - sell for a premium. The demand to live there has always outstripped the limited supply of suitable property, so the area is always buffered against the vagaries of the economy. People will always choose to live in pleasant surroundings.
While Oxford is a desirable city in its own right, nearby villages such as Boars Hill are eternally popular for commuting potential to Oxford or London. The village has attractive houses, a good location, fantastic views and good transport. The same winning combination means Totnes, Devon, enjoys high demand for family homes. You're five minutes from the A38. Turn right to Exeter, left to Plymouth and Totnes has a mainline station that takes you to London.
A GREAT VIEW
If you have a spot that everyone wants, you will never have trouble selling. Waterfront properties are a case in point. New research shows this to add 20 per cent to a property's value. A similar premium can be added for a view of the Solent, and even a Waitrose!
The fashion for riverside living has grown significantly in recent years and areas such as Marlow, Windsor and Henley offer country-style living but within an easy distance to the City. Properties on the water in Marlow and Windsor frequently receive more viewings within the first week of them coming to market than other types of homes.
At the height of their popularity in the past few years, waterside homes were fetching prices up to three times the national average. Even in a stuttering market, a home with a water view has the edge over another similar property.
Second homes on the North Northumberland coast are selling well, particularly between Warkworth and Bamburgh and close to the Northumberland National Park.
RIGHT PROPERTY, RIGHT AREA
Finding the right location is the first challenge - investment-minded buyers may overlook an emerging area's lack of access to transport, shops, schools and cinemas when prices are rising, but they will instantly rule out properties without these facilities on tap when they have the pick of the bunch. But knowing what kind of property is in demand is also important.
Prime examples of various property types which still sell well: great one-bed flats on the first floor or overlooking a garden square, two-bed flats with high ceilings and a garden or roof terrace, or family houses on 'family' roads.
Family houses in desirable school catchments will always command a premium. In Battersea, south London, Estimates show that houses in a good school catchment can command £100,000 more than their equivalents the "wrong" side of Lavender Hill.
In York, family homes can cost £50,000- £100,000 more than similar properties in the less desirable Selby schools catchment area. In the Pownall Park area of Wilmslow, 1930s houses - costing from £240,000 for a semi - sell quickly.
Demand for smaller properties varies widely. In parts of Dorset, there is demand for well-renovated two bedroom or cheaper three-bedroom homes, from people who have sold up and moved into rented accommodation while waiting to reinvest.
Yet Liverpool is at risk of flooding its market with new-build apartments. Good-quality historical conversions, however, will always sell well. The real sales success for new builds at the moment is where the developer is clearly offering good value for money - as perceived by the buyer - so that means good location, price, space, specification, light, security, parking amenities and a peaceful environment.
For those seeking the rural idyll, the chocolate box look will always appeal, Chocolate box-looking thatched cottages are always sought after, however big or small, it's the individuality and quality that incites the competitive interest.
Where you may hear of a bit of a loss of confidence, just remember that good quality will win through. Your house needs to be as close as possible to its 10 out of 10 mark.
· Think location: Homes overlooking parks or water, or penthouses and country cottages with outstanding panoramas will always be a step ahead of the competition.
· Rarity, individuality and privacy matter. Being on the edge of a great village, or within reach of a popular city counts.
· Study local schools and crime figures: they can make or break local property values in crunch times. Parents will pay a premium to live in a good state school catchment and save on fees.
· Look close to rail/bus routes in cities or motorway links elsewhere. And think twice if there is nowhere nearby to buy a pint of milk.
· Don't buy the best house in the street. It will enhance the value of nearby, less expensive properties, but the best has nowhere to go.
· Middle-market family houses are likely to weather the storm better than flats, of which there is likely to be an over-supply in boom times. Family houses in catchment areas of good schools are always in demand.
· Fine architecture will always find a buyer.