The Reluctant Developer now finds himself to be also a reluctant housebuyer...
Due to family circumstances (i.e. the wife said so) we are now trying to buy a house somewhere in the South of England, well at least south of the Watford Gap....
We are in the strange position of being a cash buyer which every single person you meet tells you is a good position to be in, but I have my doubts.
Firstly there is the fear that whatever you buy now may be a worth a lot less in the future. Or alternatively, the market has bottomed and if you don't buy soon all the promised lending by the the Northern Rock and HSBC (otherwise known as pre-election bribes by Gordon Brown) will soon start pushing prices back up or at least stop them going down.
Then there's what do you offer? In a normal market we know there is a unwritten protocol where the vendor asks for a bit more than they expect to get, you offer a bit less and agree on a price in the middle.
Honour is satisfied all round.
Now it is all more complex. Fear of falling prices means that I'm tempted to offer very low ; say £200K on a £250K price and I'm nervous that is still too much. Many properties we have seen have already been reduced by similiar amounts and still aren't selling.
Viewing modern houses in areas like Swindon is overwhelming. There are hundreds of them, not to mention the unsold new build, and they all look just the same. It gets down to trying to find the one that has slightly more parking space, or a garden just a little bigger than a postage stamp.
I'm also in danger of getting in trouble with the RSPCA since using a cat as a measuring device is causing them quite a lot of injuries (but at least you get 9 goes with each cat).
Out in the more rural areas prices are still in the "you've got to be kidding" territory. We've seen a concrete prefab bungalow on a reasonable plot but next to a main road in a not particulary attractive village that is on the market for £210K reduced from £250K and all you could do with it would be to knock it down and build something else.
This is apparently what happened to the neighbouring bungalow which now has a quite nice bungalow built at a cost of £150K, on the market at £420k reduced from £460K but isn't selling either.
My guess is the average house price will drop to around 120K providing Gordon doesn't totally bankrupt us by attempting to re-inflate house prices so I think at least another 20% needs to come off current prices.
The house now on at 200K needs to be more like 160K, 250K down to 200K etc.
I'll keep you posted...