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'House prices keep rising': Buyers in drastic race for a home


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Caroline Culot

 James Rous is calling for more protection for home buyers after his seller pulled out last minute. P
House hunters are being caught out by the shortage of homes on the market - with one agent saying he's got 23,000 buyers but just 180 properties for sale.

It comes as new figures show the number of homes for sale is at its lowest level for 19 years with demand far outstripping supply.

And the result is now 20 people on average are chasing every single available home for sale.

This is causing 'gazumping' - whereby people make an offer but lose out when another buyer offers more - as well as forcing prices up. One in three properties sold for more than the asking price in May - a record.

The buyers' market is a result of pent-up demand because of Covid - and also the looming end of the stamp duty deadline.

But it's causing misery for buyers. One father-of-three, who sold his home and wants to buy a larger property in Waveney, said he's been gazumped and lost out on other properties to cash buyers.

James Rous said: "Our failed attempts to move have gone on for several months, all the time prices seem to be increasing, whilst our agreed sale price is fixed. Now we can't even benefit from the stamp duty holiday."

Figures published by the NAEA, National Association of Estate Agents, Propertymark stated the number of homes for sale is at its lowest since December 2002.

Jamie Minors, managing director of Minors & Brady, who runs estate agents across Norfolk and Waveney, said: "I’ve never experienced a housing market like it.

"There is a clear shortage of homes available across all price levels in popular areas, which has resulted in some buyers trying to ‘gazump’.

"Our database of buyers is well over 23,000 but we now only have around 180 homes available, which is a seriously low level for us."

Max Sowerby, who runs Sowerbys property agency, with nine offices across Norfolk, said: "Our pipeline is fantastic, but we are selling each week and just not building up stock coming on."

Mark Hayward, chief policy advisor, NAEA Propertymark, said: “It is incredible to see demand for housing continuing to break records and more homes selling for over the asking price than ever as consumers rush to beat the initial stamp duty deadline at the end of the month.

"With 20 buyers per available property, we are firmly still very much in a strong sellers’ market; properties are being snapped up swiftly and at record high prices.

"However, we anticipate that there will be a much-needed rebalancing over the coming months as the remaining stamp duty deadline phases out and people start returning to a semblance of normality, spending money they have been able to save during the pandemic on holidays and more normal activities such as spending to see friends and family.”

A buyer's nightmare

James Rous wants to buy a larger home with his partner and three children, ideally in Waveney after outgrowing their current home.

He lost one of the first homes they wanted to buy last month after being gazumped and has had a nightmare house-hunting since then.

He said such is the demand that it's hard to even get a viewing on homes coming to the market - and even though they've offered on several over the asking price, they've lost out to cash buyers.

"One property I enquired about on the day it was listed already had 12 viewings booked. It then sold so we didn't get to view. The buyer then withdrew so the agent called us back to book a viewing in, then it sold again the day before we were due to view again.

"Another property I enquired about I was basically told by the agent that I wouldn't be a suitable buyer as they wanted a quick sale so were looking for cash buyers.

"There was another property that had around 15 viewings booked when I enquired a few days after it was listed. The agent already had an offer of at least the guide price which was £425,000.

"There was a period townhouse in Beccles that went to best and finals within a week of listing - we viewed but I believe it went above the guide price, also £425,000.

"Then there was another property we viewed and liked. Listed at £395,000, it went to best and finals within a week or so of listing. We offered over the guide price, but lost out to a cash buyer offering more."

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