Bold interior trends, falling borrowing costs and new opportunities for first-time buyers will bring colour and life back into the property market in 2024.
A bleak 2023 saw the market’s pulse all but stop, as would-be buyers put their plans on hold to wait out the turmoil.
House prices tumbled, affordability was stretched to the limit, the number of first-time buyers fell to a ten-year low and mortgage rates reached dizzying heights.
Experts now say the worst is over, with mortgage rates continuing to drop and sellers finally able to take advantage of falling house prices.
As the housing market shifts into a new gear, we highlight the property trends that will dominate 2024 — and what you need to watch out for…
Wait until Spring to buy
The general election — it must be called by December 17 — could stall the property market at the beginning of the year, as prospective buyers await policy pledges.
Robin Thomas, of buying agents Recoco Property Search, says there is ‘always’ a slowdown in the number of property transactions in the run-up to a general election.
‘I have worked in property since 1978 and have been involved in property transactions during the past 11 general elections,’ he says. ‘However, how far in advance of a general election this starts to impact the property market varies considerably.’
And the outcome of the poll will also have a huge effect on the housing market, he says.
There has been talk of a spring election in May after Rishi Sunak announced the Budget would be delivered on March 6 — the earliest date in 13 years apart from in the pandemic. But the Prime Minister may wait until the autumn in the hope the economy improves.
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Nick Leeming, chairman of Jackson-Stops estate agents, says: ‘The possibility of a general election as early as May 2024 could cause buyers to pause and hold off a long-term commitment until they know the impact and the chance of changes to housing policy.’
Estate agent Savills has also predicted a stall in sales at the start of the year, which could delay a recovery in house prices until 2025.
The Conservatives last week announced plans to cut costs for first-time buyers in a bid to win over younger voters ahead of an election. Housing Secretary Michael Gove said the Government would ‘definitely’ have plans in place for prospective homeowners before we head to the polls.
First-time buyers stage comeback
The number of first-time buyers who bought a home with a mortgage fell to a ten-year low in 2023, according to the Yorkshire Building Society.
Would-be buyers have been forced to put their plans on hold — soaring mortgage rates, high inflation and record increases in rent have made it harder than ever to scrape together a large enough deposit, unless they have financial help from loved ones.
Housing affordability has been further stretched for first-time buyers as they are typically subject to stricter stress tests — where lenders work out how much they can afford to borrow based on their finances and possible future interest rate changes — when they attempt to take out a mortgage.
But Lewis Shaw, mortgage expert at Shaw Financial Services, says falling inflation and interest rates could ease the cost of borrowing, opening up buying opportunities that didn’t exist in 2023.
‘First-time buyers have a great chance in 2024 to take a step on to the ladder without the competition they’ve faced from landlords over the past decade.’
This is because dramatic increases in buy-to-let mortgage rates forced many landlords to sell up last year. The Conservatives are expected to promise to cut the upfront cost of a home for first-time buyers as a pre-election giveaway in a last-ditch bid to win over younger voters. This could deliver another boost for renters looking to get their first home.
An end to the London exodus
The number of Londoners leaving the capital to move elsewhere in Britain dropped significantly in 2023 after two years of near-record levels of residents heading out, according to Hamptons estate agents.
The London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames has been voted the happiest place to live in Britain — the first time it has topped the ‘happy at home’ poll conducted by Rightmove — which asked more than 26,000 people how they feel about where they live.
North London estate agent Jeremy Leaf says the race for space has reversed to some extent as workers now go to the office a couple of days a week. This eases the pressure on families needing to leave London for bigger homes with work spaces.
‘This is likely to continue into 2024. Before and during the pandemic, it was one or the other; now, it is still important for property buyers to work from home but perhaps not as much as immediately post-pandemic,’ he says.
Embrace bold colours… maybe
Vibrant shades will be ‘all the rage’ for homeowners in 2024. Drawing inspiration from the playful ‘Barbiecore’ aesthetic, jovial colours such as bubblegum pink and bright turquoise are set to be key interior design trends this year, according to Decorilla, an interior design service.
It says: ‘These bold and vivacious shades inject an unapologetic sense of fun and energy into interiors, creating spaces that radiate positivity. Monotone furniture and decor are outdated because they lack personality and vibrancy.’
But Michael Burkmar, of Hampshire-based estate agents Burkmars, warns it has ‘always been the case’ that homes with neutral colours are easier to sell.
‘From a marketing perspective, a house with turquoise walls will stand out more but it doesn’t make it any easier to sell. Cream or white walls generally make a place look bigger, while bold colours can be a bit oppressive.’
Marco Helliwell, founder of property advice website myproperty advice.com, has previously said bright exteriors, such as a house with a pink facia, can add up to £20,000 to the value of a property because it typically sparks quick interest from buyers and can lead to a bidding war.
Bungalows are hot buys
Bungalows are surging in popularity among young families — as first-time buyers look for cheaper ways to get on the ladder.
Leah Scarborough, an estate agent at Haart in Essex, says bungalows are being snapped up within weeks and sell far faster than other homes, on average.
‘They are very popular and go so quickly because of the scope they offer. They tend to have bigger gardens and a lot of potential for renovation. Bungalows in need of a little bit of work are being bought by buyers aged 25 to 30,’ she says.
Room sizes in bungalows are usually larger than in new-builds and big plot sizes make them ideal for expansion and growing families. Almost half of bungalows have two bedrooms. But only one in five has more than three, according to the Valuation Office Agency.
Most bungalows are also freehold, meaning buyers own the house and land it’s on outright.
In comparison, most flats are leasehold, meaning buyers do not own the land their property occupies and are at the mercy of the freeholder if there are problems with the building itself.
Wood panelling is back
Panelling has become one of the hottest trends in interior design, shooting up in popularity on social media.
Videos with the hashtag ‘panelling’ have amassed 284 million views worldwide on social media application TikTok.
Wood panelling wallpaper took off in 2023, with Laura Ashley and John Lewis selling fake wood-effect wallpaper.
But carpenter Kai Cassidy, from Maidstone in Kent, says this trend is shifting up a gear into actual wood-effect panelling.
He says it is a great way to brighten a room and is increasingly popular. ‘It’s not just grand old properties asking for these,’ he says. ‘
One of my clients lives in a 1980s house and the panelling looks great in her living room.
‘It takes about four hours to do and costs around £350 with material costs on top.’
Split your home in two
Homeowners could soon be able to convert houses into two flats without planning permission, under new Government plans to slash red tape.
The proposals, announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in his Autumn Statement, could trigger a wave of conversions in 2024.
The new rule, known as a ‘permitted development right’, would apply so long as the external appearance of the building does not change. The Government said it wants to implement the change in 2024 after consulting industry experts.
Ranald Mitchell, of mortgage adviser Charwin Private Clients, says: ‘Many landlords will jump at the chance to use this relaxation in the rules. They are looking at any possibility to improve their yield and are sitting on properties prime for carving up.’
The rule change could also come in handy for multi-generational living, with families dividing up their home so that elderly relatives can move in, Mr Mitchell adds.
You could escape to the chateau…
Dreams of buying a second home in France could soon be back on the table, thanks to a forthcoming change in immigration rules.
Since Brexit, British visitors can spend just 90 in every 180 days in the Schengen Area — almost all the European Union, plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.
This derailed many plans to buy a second home in Europe for those who planned to spend much of their retirement abroad.
Currently, the only way second homeowners can stay in France for more than 90 days is to apply for a long-stay visa each year, but acquiring one has been criticised as complicated and expensive.
A rule change approved by the French parliament a fortnight ago has scrapped the limit, extending how long you can spend in France without a visa to six months for British second homeowners.
France’s constitutional council still needs to rubber-stamp the change. However, it would make it far easier for those who buy a home in France to enjoy the property.
Cash will be king
Wealthy buyers who can secure their new home with cash will do so in 2024, even if it means moving into a smaller or less central property because they won’t be at the mercy of mortgage rates, according to estate agent, Jeremy Leaf.
He says: ‘People want to be cash buyers rather than rely on mortgages, even if that means moving further out of town in search of cheaper properties.
‘Many buyers had their fingers burned in 2023, knowing that property values can be reduced if they are relying on a mortgage, and the lender’s surveyor, to assess the value of a potential property.
‘Or they have found that criteria has been too tight to get the mortgage they need. Cash brings better bargaining power and gives buyers the advantage.’
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