property marketDoes an increase in property sales and low interest rates mean that spring 2012 is time to make your move? 

I am delighted to report that we are experiencing an upsurge in property sales. From a low base, it has to be admitted but this is a very encouraging sign and bodes well for the rest of 2012.

We would normally expect the housing market to pick up at Easter but the last few weeks have been very encouraging with strong sales across the board. I have checked with my competitors and they report the same.

Although there is some interest from the South, most of the activity is local interest and that is another good sign as a healthy local market is very much needed whilst the English market remains quiet.

Yes, we could do with some more first-time buyers and I hope that my article last month has encouraged them. It does no harm to remind them that 95% mortgages are still available.

When you think that the first time buyer house, locally, is going to cost £70-£80,000, 5% of that is £4000, which is quite affordable, particularly if the Bank of Mum and Dad is open for business!

Property prices are definitely down. The Scottish Government statistics indicate that, in Scotland overall, prices peaked in June 2008 and have lost, on average, 7% since then. Sadly, this is an average and Caithness has, undoubtedly, lost more than that.

It is a buyers’ market and sellers who are keen to sell are accepting offers below their asking price . Having said that, there is the odd exception to the rule whereby a house, long on the market, goes for the asking price (or more). It is location, location, location and if, for instance, someone wants to live next door to their Mum and they can afford it, they may be prepared to pay whatever it takes.

The Bank of England has maintained very low interest rates and all the indications are that this will go on for a considerable time. This is good news for those wanting to borrow.

All this means that, in Scotland, home affordability, at the moment, is at a high and, furthermore, with rental costs rising, the decision to buy is made significantly easier.

If you are thinking of putting your property on the market, now will be a good time to start some spring cleaning and, perhaps, a little painting and decorating.

I suggest that you stand outside your property and look at it with fresh eyes. Get an (honest) friend to look at it and give it constructive criticism. That is a hard ask but, if you are serious, be ready to be hurt and see that as a positive. Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and you have to go with the law of averages. You want to make your house resonate with the maximum number of people if you would like a competition.

Bear in mind that, too, that the valuer who looks at your house when preparing the Home Report is also human. He or she will be affected by how the property looks and, although the major value will rest in the bricks and mortar, appearance does matter.

Do think about these issues before the valuer and viewers come and, to quote the old song, “accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative”.

It is good to feel positive about the housing market and it has been a while. Long may it continue.

If you would like to comment on this article or would like this column to touch on any particular matter, please comment.

Bruce de Wert  provides traditional legal services at his Georgesons offices in Wick and Thurso, Caithness. The practice focuses on property law, wills, powers of attorney and executries. For more information visit Georgesons Solicitors.

Bruce also provides estate agency services through Georgesons Estate Agents Ltd.