Seeing the opportunity in the current property market will be possible for prospective buyers willing to take a risk, writes Anne Ashworth.


The property market is something on which everybody has opinion. The loudest voices in any conversation tend to come from those who are perennially persuaded that disaster looms.

At present, these downbeat types are having a wonderful time, warning that a severe slump lies ahead, although continued stagnation is the most widely forecast outlook for Richmond and its surrounding areas – for the rest of this year, and also for 2019 and 2020.

These housing market miserabilists are most irked by homeowners who shrug their shoulders at pessimistic or optimistic forecasts for property values. Declaring that you, personally, think that “houses are for nesting not investing” particularly irritates the people who would like to think that all homeowners have borrowed too much and would be forced sellers of their properties in the event of another economic crisis.

This conviction that finance is far too easy to obtain ignores the reality. Stricter mortgage affordability tests have been in place for all applicants since 2014. Those seeking a loan of 4.5 times their income face a considerable challenge – which is one reason why London’s smarter suburbs are at a standstill.

If this kind of talk makes you want to change the subject to anything but property, don’t be so fast. You could miss something that you may find rather interesting and certainly controversial. Over the next few months, it is certain that you will hear at least one person say that there has never been a better time to trade up in London. Yes. You heard that right.

The argument goes like this: if you have a home worth, say, £1 million, be willing to cut the price because you should be able to secure an even larger discount on a more expensive residence, so long as you can find someone who needs to sell and is willing to take a reality check.

How many such deals will be struck this autumn is impossible to predict. Staying put and improving seems set to be the most common trend until the outcome of Brexit becomes clearer. House-hunters are wary of paying too much for a wreck. They are also intolerant of decor that they perceive to be dated, to the dismay of sellers who perceive their property to be perfect. Estate agents report that, rather than tolerate criticism of their taste, owners will take their property off the market.

In this climate, it is somewhat ironic that Dulux, the paint manufacturer, has declared that the colour of 2019 will be spiced honey, the sort of dark beige shade associated, in most minds with dated interior style. Is the reign of grey as the fashionable key neutral set to be challenged? Could magnolia even stage a comeback? Or will there a shift to the dark side with navy and black paints gaining more ascendancy? On this, as about every aspect of property, you won’t be surprised to learn, that everyone will have something to say.