Safe as Houses?

Safe as houses?

Estate agent Paul Bonett on the Brighton property market - Viva Brighton Interview

If I had to sum up the state of the Brighton property market in one word, it would be ‘complicated’.

Everything changed around 15 years ago, when the government started promoting Buy-to-Let mortgages. Lots of people started buying property as a pension plan, a better return than savings because of low interest rates.

As a result, the number of properties on the market at any one time has shrunk by as much as 50%, especially property historically in ‘First Time Buyer’ territory. Fewer properties being available has pushed prices up, pricing out that typical first-time buyer.

Some are now going further afield; buying in Peacehaven, Newhaven, Shoreham and Worthing, where prices, in turn, are increasing.

A lot of buyers are coming down from London, one of the few places where housing is more expensive than Brighton, either having sold their home in the capital, or rented it out (though there is still no shortage of local buyers).

Brighton’s housing stock is limited because of the Downs and the sea there isn’t much opportunity for ‘new build’. A flurry of international investors are buying batches of what ‘new build’ flats do appear around the city. I’m not sure this is really helping our local Brighton community.

Another current challenge (probably because of anxiety about world events in China and Syria) is that people are interested in moving, but they are reluctant to put their homes on the market, further increasing the shortage of available stock, so pushing up prices. 

Even so, many are still making offers on property. But owners aren’t really interested in offers unless the chains are complete the other end.  So, for the Brighton market to have legs, people who want to move need to take the plunge and get on the market.  

The uncertainty about the UK being in or out of Europe isn’t helping either. I think it’d be madness to leave, but if we did, a lot of housing stock may well come back onto the market. A lot of renters at the moment are European students and workers and there would be far fewer of them around, so I suspect a good proportion of Buy-To-Let investors may want to sell up.

The rental market in Brighton is equally complicated. Prices are out of kilter with local affordability so a lot of people who work in Brighton – including key workers – can’t afford to live here because rents are so high. This is not good for the wider local economy because those renting locally don’t have much money left over to spend on other things!

Nevertheless Brighton is always dynamic: There’s a fantastic variety of property styles, and an enthusiasm from people to live here. Brighton is often seen as a bit of a bubble: whatever is going on in the UK economy, people find Brighton & Hove irresistible.

Paul Bonett f.n.a.e.a.  m.a.r.l.a.

As told to Alex Leith - Viva Brighton