The Carlisle Post Lockdown Property Market

What have we learned in the first month?

From talking to most of the Carlisle estate and letting agents and our own findings, it might surprise many of you that new enquiries from homebuyers, tenants, landlords and home sellers have been at record levels since lockdown was lifted from the property market in mid-May.

There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, we had the pent-up demand for Carlisle property from the Boris Bounce in January and February. Next, many Carlisle people were planning to move this spring yet were prevented doing so because of lockdown, and finally, surprisingly, an advance wave of home movers seeking to bring their Carlisle moving plans forward because of a fear of a second Covid-19 wave later in the year.

So, what does all that look like and how does it compare to the last 12/18 months?

Data from Yomdel, the live chat and telephone answering service for a quarter of UK estate and letting agents, is able to track objective and more current information from across the UK on what is really happening. Each week, they are dealing with thousands of enquiries including:

  • Seller enquiries (i.e. house sellers looking to put their property on the market)
  • Buyer enquiries (i.e. people looking to view a property on the market with the intention of buying it)
  • Landlords enquiries (i.e. landlords looking for tenants for their rental property)
  • Tenant enquiries (i.e. people looking to view a property on the market with the intention of renting it)

They have created a rolling weekly average of those enquiries for the whole of the UK for the 62 weeks before the country went into lockdown. Then they compared that 62 week average with specific time frames, namely the 10 weeks of the run up to the General Election, the 8 weeks of Post Boris Bounce in January and February 2020, the weeks of lockdown in March, April and early May and then finally, from mid-May, the post lockdown.

You might ask why tracking estate and letting agency enquiries is so important?

Enquiries in letting and estate agencies are the beating heart of the property market – they are the ECG machine of the estate and letting agency. Of course, house price data has its place and is lauded by the national press as the bellwether of the property market, yet it takes 6 to 9 months for the effects of what is happening today to show in those house price indexes, whilst these enquiries are what is happening now.

Have a look at the data in the graph and table, it can be seen in the 8 weeks up to the General Election, every metric was down. Next, the post Boris Bounce saw house seller and house buyer leads increase yet note how low tenant enquiries were (hardly any change from the run up to the election), everything dipped during lockdown as expected, yet look at all the metrics post lockdown … amazing! (e.g. if a number in the graph/table below is say -25%, that means its 25% below the rolling 62 week average, yet if it were +20%, then that would mean it would be 20% more than the rolling 62 week average).

The numbers speak for themselves!

So, what is happening in the Carlisle property market? Well, there is plenty of activity in the Carlisle property market, yet that doesn’t mean everything is back to normal. Enquiries are an important metric, yet another way to judge the health of the property market is to look at the number of property transactions (i.e. people moving).

Now the Land Registry data isn’t quite as exhilarating, yet it is less volatile. Nationally, it shows that property transactions were at their lowest level since its records began in April 2005. The seasonally adjusted estimate of UK residential property transactions in April and May 2020 was 90,210, 53.4% lower than the 193,500 transactions of April and May 2019. Again though, this was because of the restrictions on moving during Covid-19. The stats for Carlisle are still to be released, yet rest assured I will share them in due course.

Looking again at what is happening now, when I look at the number of properties for sale…

161 Carlisle properties have come onto the property market in the last 14 days alone, and of those, 12 are already sold subject to contract

So, what of the future of the post-lockdown Carlisle housing market? While a stern recession seems almost guaranteed, a housing market crash is not. Many newspapers are predicting property values to fall in 2020, then rise reticently from the ashes in 2021. The fact is, nobody knows. The property market is driven a lot by sentiment. Buying a home is not like buying stocks and shares – it’s a home to live in … and those Carlisle landlords who are looking for an investment opportunity, often let their heart rule the head (again sentiment) when investing in property.

Property always has, and always will be, a long-term investment. Many of you Carlisle people reading this, especially potential Carlisle first time buyers, have been putting off buying your first home because of Brexit, now its Covid-19, and in a few years, it will be something else. There will always be ‘something else’… and you could get to your 50’s and 60’s, still renting, waiting for the ‘next thing’ to pass before you buy … and end up buying nothing.

Nobody knows what the months or years ahead will bring … yet what I do know is, people will always need a place to live. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments. Tell us what your experiences are as a Carlisle landlord or homeowner, tenant or buyer so we can all learn from each other.

Is This the Beginning of the End for Buy to Let In Carlisle

…. and should Carlisle landlords & Carlisle homeowners be worried?

In 2019, the private rented sector accounted for just over four and a half million households or 19.9% of UK households, no change from the year before. Interesting, when compared to the proportion of private rented households in the 1980’s and 1990’s, when the proportion of private rented households was stable at around 9.5% to 10.8%.

Most of that growth in the private rented sector came in three main spurts. The first growth spurt was between 1999 and 2003 and that was caused when property values were increasing at 20% per annum, the second came from the migration of 1.69m people from the EU8 countries after 2004 and the final growth spurt came about because of the property crash of 2008/9. When I look at the local stats …

8.4% of Carlisle properties in 1991 were privately rented, whilst the most recent stats, stand at 15.1%

Apart from social housing, the other pillar of home tenure is owner occupation. Owner occupation is made up of two separate groups: outright owners and those who own their home yet are buying the property with a mortgage.

In 1991, 24.2% of Carlisle households owned their property outright and 43.0% of Carlisle households were buying with a mortgage, whilst current stats show 30.2% of Carlisle households are outright owners and only 34.4% are buying their Carlisle home with a mortgage

Looking at these numbers, two things are clear-

  1. The increase in the proportion and number of Carlisle outright owners is at least somewhat caused by Carlisle’s baby-boomer population retiring, being able to pay off their mortgages and thus going into outright homeownership.
  2. Overall homeownership is down. These figures will be of no surprise to many readers with heightened barriers to home ownership, as saving for the deposit became the prevailing hurdle to getting on the housing ladder together with a substantial increase in the amount of private rented accommodation, provided by an ostensibly ever-growing cohort of buy-to-let investors.

So, on the face of it, everything looks rosy for Carlisle buy to let landlords with the private rented sector growing ever upwards.

This is not the case though because these stats on private rented and homeownership on Carlisle are from the last census. However, the Government have a number of in-depth annual surveys on the property market and since 2016, the proportion of privately rented properties has remained stagnant at between 19% and 20%. Also, over the same time frame, the proportion of homebuyers with a mortgage has increased quite considerably from 30.7% of all households nationally to 35.5% last year. This increase is mainly attributed to an increase in first time buyers.

So, why have we seen an increase in the number of first time buyers?

Firstly, the government introduced their Help to Buy Scheme in 2013 helping first time buyers get on the property ladder with interest free loans and mortgage guarantees. Secondly, the wide availability of 95% mortgages since the mid 2010’s (meaning first time buyers only need to find a 5% deposit), and finally the continued increasing reliance of deposits from the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ have helped to support this growth.

Interestingly, age is an important factor in these stats, as it’s the 25 to 35-year olds that have seen the biggest increase in home ownership, yet it’s decreased for those in the 35 to 45-year old bracket.

So, what does all this mean for Carlisle landlords and Carlisle homeowners?

In the next six months, I believe the growth in first time buyer numbers will ease slightly. The pent-up demand of the Boris Bounce in January and February has now been released, and whilst the early signs are very good, we are still to see the effects of the curtailing of the furlough scheme on the people’s ability to move home. 

Many doom-mongers were predicting the banks would remove 95% mortgages after Covid-19, yet looking on a well-known comparison website, at the time of writing, there were 183 ‘95% mortgages’ available to first time buyers, with eye watering low rates of 1.53% with the Halifax on a 2 year fixed rate and 5 year fixed rate with the Skipton at 1.83%. The Bank of Mum and Dad might be a tougher nut to crack for first time buyers’ deposits – the fall in the FTSE and the repercussions this will have on older households’ pensions income may restrict its availability.

This means even though the Carlisle property market is doing reasonably well, Carlisle homeowners wanting to sell shouldn’t get carried away and ‘over-egg’ their asking prices. The information available today at all buyers’ fingertips means your property can so easily be overlooked as being overpriced and thus become ignored.

My advice to Carlisle landlords is, even though the proportion of private rented properties isn’t growing, in real numbers it is, as we created 230,000 residential homes in the country last year alone, so we aren’t seeing a mass exodus out of private renting.

Yet, now might be the time to consider spending money on upgrading what you already own instead of buying another property. Depending on the type and location of your Carlisle rental property, the return on investment of certain upgrades can be in the order of 20% to 30% per annum. Don’t fall for the trap many Carlisle landlords fall into and upgrade without speaking to a property professional. Whether you are a client or not, I am always here at the end of the phone to give you my advice and opinion.

Please do let me have your thoughts on the matter – thank you in advance.

Are Buy to Let Landlords to Blame for Carlisle’s Housing Crisis?

Isn’t it funny that nobody boasts they are a buy to let landlord anymore? Roll the clock back to the early millennium and you couldn’t go to the local golf club or shop at a Tesco without someone dropping buy to let into the conversation as easily and as often as the weather.

Yet now, Carlisle buy to let landlords have almost pariah status, as they place a brown paper bag over their head when they enter a letting agency, lest they be recognised as such. They can easily be recognised though, as the average age of a UK tenant in a property is 32 years old, whilst the average age of a UK landlord is between 40 and 61 years old.

Joking aside, if it wasn’t for buy to let landlords – Carlisle and the UK would be in a rather difficult position when it comes to housing our local people. Many people believe that if you take buy to let landlords out of the loop of the UK property network, then it would be the land of milk and honey for first-time buyers priced out of the market. Those Carlisle landlords provide those Carlisle tenants with a mixture of homes to live in and using market forces, ensure the right number of Carlisle homes are available. In fact, the stats show that…

Carlisle buy to let landlords provide 5,199 Carlisle homes for 10,761 Carlisle tenants

Yet the retort from many tenant organisations would be that Carlisle landlords are wealthy middle-class people, voraciously exploiting the failing Carlisle property market for their profit and greed. Of course, the demographic of an average Carlisle landlord is they tend to come from more fortunate backgrounds, with 3 in 4 of Carlisle landlords aged between their late 40’s to late 60’s and 4 in 10 having a degree level qualification.

It also wouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that those who invest in a buy to let Carlisle property are likely to be better off than those who have not yet been able to buy a home. Yet, that is the nature of the country we live in and it’s a consequence of a competitive free market economy (the alternative didn’t go to well in the Soviet bloc). Indeed, asserting that the buy to let landlords represent a transfer of wealth and money from tenants to landlords is like saying that the pub represents a transfer of wealth from drinkers to the pub landlord.

Don’t get me wrong, the tax loopholes for landlords up until 3 or 4 years ago were a little ‘too’ generous, still these were closed by the Tory’s themselves. However, should the Government try to place even more burden on landlords like some are suggesting, forcing them to sell, I am certain some Carlisle first time buyers would find it cheaper to buy their first Carlisle home. This is because they wouldn’t be in competition with Carlisle landlords to buy the starter homes both types of buyers crave, meaning house prices would drop (simple economics would dictate that).

Yet, if the supply of Carlisle privately rented homes contracted at a greater rate (because landlords were selling up) than demand, this would make renting more expensive (again simple economics) for the vast majority of Carlisle tenants who were still renting a Carlisle home. Irrespective of whether property values dropped, it might take years for a tenant to save for a deposit, whilst the rental properties the landlords want to sell, the tenants only need to be given two months’ notice to leave so the property can be put on the market.

One might ask why don’t the local authorities build more council houses?

Well, Government funding has been tight because of the credit crunch deficit since 2009 and going forward because of the current situation with Covid-19, it will get even worse. In fact, of the 617,230 new homes built in the country over the last 4 years, only 8,270 or 1.33% were built by local authorities, meaning only just over 1 in 100 of all new properties built in the last 4 years were built by the local authorities.

This is important as the number of people in rented property has been growing over the last 20 years. In fact, when you look at all the tenants in council and private rented accommodation locally…

30.7% of Carlisle people live in a rented property

Interestingly, the demographic of a council house tenant is totally different to that of a tenant in a private rented home. The average age of a council house tenant is 52 years old (compared to 32 years for a private rented tenant), so it appears the older generation have the upper hand on council houses. So again, who exactly is going to house the people of Carlisle, especially the younger generation that can’t afford to buy?

Local authorities haven’t got the money, Housing associations get their money from central Government, so the only other source of housing is private landlords. The problem existed before private landlords filled the gap. No doubt many Carlisle landlords have certainly gained from the problem, especially between 2000 and 2007, yet at the same time, they have helped home millions of people.

Consequently, are Carlisle landlords greedy and selfish?  For most law abiding Carlisle landlords, who look after their tenants and their properties really well, nothing could be further from the truth… and yes they have made some money – yet if you take into account property maintenance, mortgage finance, taxation, agent fees, surveys and inspections – it’s really not the gold mine many think it is.

Not until all the political parties stop using the housing issue as a political football will this issue be sorted. For example, it makes sense to allow mass building in the South East, again driving up supply and making property more affordable, yet that would wind up the Tory voting home county heartlands. It’s a shame because we do have the room to build more homes, in fact…

Only 1.2% of the country has houses built on it

The country needs a massive root and branch change to sort things out, yet I have grave misgivings that any politician has the stomach or the political resolve to do anything about it.

If Covid-19 does affect the confidence in the property market, that will be in fact good news for Carlisle landlords, as long as the Government doesn’t put its big ‘size 9’s into the rental market by taking even more money out landlord’s pockets.

Historically, ambiguity in the property market typically results in an expansion in activity in the private rental market. Prospective home movers will rent in between selling their home and buying the next one, while budding first time buyers typically postpone their purchase and stay in the private rental market for marginally longer … which all increases demand for rental property.