In the last 12 months, we’ve been talking a lot about the St Neots property market and using comparisons against the same time last year and 5 years ago to get a better understanding of where we may be headed... because when it comes to the headlines, most people want to know what is happening to house prices.

However, as 2 in 3 (65.1%) of St Neots home sellers are also home buyers, the price is almost irrelevant. Simply put, if your property has gone down in value – the one you want to buy has also gone down in value – so you are no better, or worse, off.

Also, if you are moving up market – which most people do when they move home – in a suppressed property market, the gap between what yours is worth and what you will buy gets lower, meaning you will be better off.

But what about the next few months?

Many property commentators consider transaction numbers (i.e. the number of people selling and buying) to be a better measure of the health of the property market.

Let’s take a look at the numbers for Huntingdonshire as a whole (including St Neots).

The average number of properties sold in Q1 (Jan/Feb/March) between 2008 and 2020 was 205 properties per month, whilst Q1 in 2021 saw 317 properties sell on average per month (boosted by the March stats where an eye watering 393 homes sold). This meant…

54.8% more houses sold in the St Neots area in Q1 2021 than the 14-year average

The average number properties in Q2 (April/May/June) between 2008 and 2020 was 230 properties per month, whilst Q2 in 2021 saw only 194 properties sell on average per month, meaning…

15.7% less houses sold in the St Neots area in Q2 2021 than the 14-year average

Finally, whilst the Land Registry won’t be publishing the exact stats for Q3 2021 for our local authority for a couple of months, I can make certain calculated assumptions from the national data published by HMRC.

The number of property sales for our local authority area in Q3 (July/August/September) between 2008 and 2020 was on average 263 properties per month. However, using the HMRC data, I calculate there will only be 197 properties sold on average per month in Q3 2021. This means…

24.9% less houses sold in the St Neots area in Q3 2021 than the 14-year average

One of the two main drivers of activity in the housing market in the latter half of 2020 (meaning Q1 figures were better than the long-term average) was the battle for space, with many St Neots buyers seeking larger properties to work from home.

The second was the short-lived tax relief measures such as the cut to Stamp Duty meaning property prices were at an all-time high.

But, what also might surprise you, is the number of people buying for the first time.

1 in 4 mortgages since lockdown have been for first-time buyers (25.12%)

St Neots first-time buyers, buoyed by parental help with their deposits, the Government’s 5% deposit mortgage and the ultra-low borrowing costs, have also helped to push house price growth since the start of 2021.

In fact, if you split down house price growth between second-time (third-time, etc.,) buyers and first-time buyers, the national annual house price inflation for first-time buyers is 9.2% compared to 8.1% for the second or third time buyers.

Yet, the Q2 and Q3 2021 St Neots property market was worse than the long-term St Neots average (in terms of property transactions)

The question is – should we be worried?

The UK economy continues to deliver a benevolent framework to the British housing market.

The labour market has outstripped expectations, with the millions who were expected to join the dole queue at the end of furlough failing to materialise and with the number of job vacancies on the rise.

Of course, the Bank of England is projected to increase interest rates to dampen inflation in the coming months, with further small rises predicted over 2022, so we do expect the demand for property to cool off as mortgage borrowing costs increase.

Normally such rises in mortgage costs would mean less properties would sell, yet nothing over the last couple of years has been normal.

Many St Neots property homeowners have held back putting their property on the market in the last 6 months because they were afraid they would sell their own home but not find another to buy – thus making them homeless. Nothing could be further from the truth – yet that is what a lot of people incorrectly believe.

If the St Neots property market slows and interest rates rise, mortgage costs will still be very low by historical standards.

Also, if the obstacle of raising the 5% deposit can be overcome by first-time buyers plus a confidence that existing homeowners won’t be made homeless because of a cooling property market, many more people could be tempted to enter the property market by placing their property for sale first…

… thus, opening up the market to more buyers - which in turn will drive up transaction numbers back to their normal 14-year average. However, raising a deposit is likely to remain the primary obstacle for many.

If you are a St Neots homeowner or a St Neots first-time buyer and want our thoughts on the future, then please get in contact.

2022 is going to be an interesting year ahead for the St Neots property market - only time will tell if this will be a brief respite or is it running out of steam?

Please tell me your thoughts on what you think will happen.