There will be many of us working in the property sector who will have raised a glass and toasted seeing the back of 2023.
The hangover from Liz Truss’ botched mini-budget created huge problems across the market, and it was only through Autumn and Winter that we started to see the first signs of recovery.
But, as we kick off the New Year, there are already some green-shoots on the horizon.
The latest data from RightMove has, understandably, really boosted confidence.
In case you missed it, the portal announced this week how, on Boxing Day, there were a record number of homes listed for sale. Rightmove say more than 10,000 new properties came to market, which is the biggest number of new sellers in one day since 2011.
In fact, visits to Rightmove nearly doubled between Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The level of demand from potential home-buyers, measured by the number of enquiries sent to estate agents about homes for sale, jumped too, and more than tripled (+273%) from Christmas Day to Boxing Day.
Rightmove’s data about a surge in sellers isn’t necessarily all good. This can often happen in a bad market. But dig deeper and you find a 17 percent rise in buyer enquiries year on year.
That is a massive tick.
I do sense a shift in the market and there are early signs, albeit fragile, of positivity.
Banks have started fighting for mortgage business and are cutting rates to levels we’ve not seen in around seven months. Long may this continue.
And, crucially, confidence is rising too among buy-to-let landlords.
Around three-quarters (74%) of residential buy-to-let landlords feel confident about the performance of the property market over the next 12 months, with 27% feeling very confident, according to research from The Mortgage Lender (TML).
Confidence in the future of the property market was highest for landlords that predominantly owned homes of multiple occupancy (86%), student accommodation landlords (84%) and portfolio landlords with more than five properties (82%).
When it came to the performance of their own rental properties over the next 12 months, 71% of landlords felt confident, with portfolio landlords (five-plus properties) feeling the most confident at 78%.
Those more seasoned landlords that have been letting properties for over five years were more likely to feel confident about their rental property portfolios over the next 12 months compared to those with less experience (73% vs 69%), possibly due to the fact that they have weathered a number of economic cycles.
But confidence can only take you so far. There is still a chronic shortage of family homes across far too many parts of the UK. The crazy prices and mass viewings may have gone. But demand still outstrips the supply of decent homes, and remedying this will help to steady prices.
Rental is still a disaster for too many would-be tenants. Stock is low. Rents are high. And this makes buying a home much more appealing.
People I speak to, who know I’m in the industry, are no longer asking if it is the right time to buy.
Instead they are asking for tips on finding somewhere to buy.
It’s a small but subtle change but it underlines a shift from hesitation to growing confidence.
As we enter a General Election year I’m increasingly of the view that the Party who best provide the answers are likely to be the ones who secure the most votes at the next General Election.
A recovering housing market in 2024 is surely a vote-winner for all.