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Anger, bidding wars and spiralling prices - what it's really like for buyers right now in Manchester's 'crazy' property market

Manchester Evening News logo Manchester Evening News 08/05/2021 Dianne Bourne

Sealed bids, houses selling on the day they're listed, and estate agents suffering a barrage of abuse from angry buyers missing out on viewings.

Welcome to the 'brutal' world of house buying in Greater Manchester in 2021 - where an overheated property market is leading desperate buyers to desperate measures.

Estate agents say it's the 'craziest' market they've seen in 20 years, with many properties having 10 or more offers within days of going on sale, while some agents have reported being verbally abused by frustrated buyers.

Properties in the suburbs are now routinely going to sealed bids, and first time buyers are saying they're not even getting through the door before properties sell - in some cases up to £50,000 above the asking price - in what is firmly a seller's market.

Buyers have described the situation as 'wild' and 'brutal' with many resorting to leafleting their chosen areas, while local area Facebook groups are flooded with requests from people keen to know if anyone is intending to sell in the future - in a desperate bid to be first through the door of a new-to-the-market house.

The lack of supply to meet demand has seen asking prices surge - with increases at a faster rate in the north west than anywhere else in the UK.

Rightmove this month confirmed that statistic, with seven of the top ten biggest year-on-year asking price increases here in the north west - including Leigh and Oldham in Greater Manchester, Rossendale and Lancaster in Lancashire and Sandbach in Cheshire seeing the biggest rises.

Meanwhile Salford has seen the biggest price increase over the past five years, with the average house in February 2016 priced at £129,563 - now that's surged by a massive 44 per cent to an average of £188,600 in February 2021.

Supply across the whole of Greater Manchester is becoming a major issue, with many people who had been considering selling saying they're putting it off because there's simply no houses at the moment for them to buy.

Scores of MEN readers have revealed their frustrations at trying to buy on the 'overheated' north west property market - and it's seemingly a situation affecting all areas and at all price ranges.

One estate agent told the MEN: "I've worked in the property industry in Tameside for over 20 years and I've never known anything like it. We are seeing 30 to 40 people wanting one house.

"We have been subjected to verbal abuse from people who want to view properties, but due to Covid restrictions our diary simply cannot cope. Crazy, crazy times."

"People are making crazy offers without even viewing the houses"

First-time buyer Caroline Taylor, from Ashton-under-Lyne, had always set the milestone of buying her first home by the time she was 30. But after a year of searching, the beauty therapist is still yet to secure a property, and this week turned 30 without so much as a successful bid.

a woman smiling for the camera: First time buyer Caroline Taylor © MEN First time buyer Caroline Taylor

She is looking across Tameside and Oldham for a two-bedroom starter property, with a budget of around £120,000.

"So far this year I would say I've attempted to view about 15 properties, but by the time I've rang up or emailed within hours they have been sold - or they simply say no more viewings are being taken as it will sell for sure by the time the first few go for it," she says.

"I'm told even though the agents prefer people to view the houses, just to secure themselves people are making crazy offers without even viewing the houses, so first time buyers don't even get a chance.

"One I put an offer on I rang up straight away and even then I was 1 of 16 viewers. I was the 3rd person to view it - I put in an offer straight away, added on another 5k and it still wasn't enough.

"I was advised someone went in with a crazy higher offer and the property wouldn't even sell for that as the survey would knock it down... however its a seller's market so basically, whether it's realistic or not, the seller of course will choose the highest offer.

"It's like people that can afford to are playing a game. Cash buyers and builders are joining up to knock us out the game and then renovate at cheap price and rent it out to make even more of a profit. I literally spend time in between my working day checking Rightmove and OntheMarket just in case something new comes up."

a sign on the side of a road: Homes are selling as soon as they go on sale across Manchester © MEN Homes are selling as soon as they go on sale across Manchester

" I've started now asking everyone I know to sign up to alerts just in case I'm working and miss one and to tell me first if they hear of anyone thinking to sell their house, just so I can try and speak to them first.

"There just isn't enough to suit demand and people are cashing in on other's losses," Caroline adds.

"I've even thought about renting just to start but I don't want to get into that circle and lose my savings that I have worked so hard to build up to be in this position.

"If it carries on I really think there needs to be some kind of rules set to give us first time buyers a chance, maybe put a limit on the amount of properties a person can own and not just carry on cashing in from people genuinely trying to start their adult life and having their independence put on hold due to something that is way out of our control.

"This will have a major impact on our generation, mental and social wellbeing if something isn't done to help us be able to move out and gain our independence. Our wings are clipped and there's just nothing we can do about it."

It's an experience Shelly Stevens, 43, is having too. She's a first-time buyer and has widened her search across Atherton, Eccles and Swinton, but has now been outbid three times on properties in the £140,000 range.

She says: "I was told my offer was accepted on a house and less than 24 hours later the estate agent called and asked for best and final offer. I was shocked and didn't understand why all of a sudden the acceptance had been withdrawn. Greedy vendors and greedy estate agents. This has happened three times now in the last month it's ridiculous."

"Desperate times call for desperate measures"

Estate agent Maurice Kilbride covers South Manchester - an area that has seen frenzied activity among buyers in recent months - covering Cheadle, Gatley, Didsbury, Heald Green and Sharston.

a group of people sitting in a chair: Estate agent Maurice Kilbride is seeing huge demand across South Manchester in the © Maurice Kilbride Estate agent Maurice Kilbride is seeing huge demand across South Manchester in the

In the past month alone he's seen three houses sell for £50,000 OVER the asking price after going to sealed bids.

He says: "It's certainly the busiest in the last 20 years which is crazy when you think what everyone has gone through these past 12 months.

"The situation we have is an imbalance of demand against supply. Supply is terribly low - there is a massive shortage in stock and that's what is causing the inflation in prices. You can put a property on the market anywhere in South Manchester and if it's a reasonable property you can have 5-10 serious buyers vying for it. We are having multiple offers for every single property on the market.

"Probably 70 per cent of properties are now going to sealed bids. I've had 3 going for £50,000 over the asking price in recent weeks. The prices are getting so out of kilter, and it's quite frightening what people are prepared to pay but desperate times call for desperate measures."

Maurice says that the end of the Stamp Duty holiday in July may serve to slow the market. Many here in the north west believe it is the stamp duty holiday, brought in by the government to boost the property market during lockdown, that is fuelling the feverish desperation to get house sales secured before the summer.

Maurice said: "I feel bad for first time buyers trying to get on the market, as I have three teenage lads myself in that situation, but prices are escalating . There's got to be a tipping point - maybe the end of the Stamp Duty holiday will see it, or when the furlough scheme ends in September."

While many first time buyers fear they are being 'priced out' by investors swooping on property, in the suburbs estate agents don't believe that to be the case.

He adds: "In the more affluent areas it's buyers, not investors competing for properties. Investors don't want to buy at top prices, they want to buy when the market is on its backside.

"There's a clear need for more stock, and builders need to be doing more of the first-time buyer low-cost properties otherwise there's a distinct feeling it will all just grind to a halt."

Maurice recommends that buyers who are struggling make the effort to get to know local estate agents so they can alert you to new properties coming to the market, and to make sure you have a copy of your mortgage agreement so sellers can see that you're ready to go.

What MEN readers are saying about the Manchester property market

a house on a street corner: Estate agents say some properties in Wigan have been selling within just 24 hours of being put up for sale © Manchester Evening News Estate agents say some properties in Wigan have been selling within just 24 hours of being put up for sale

We asked readers on our Facebook page for their experiences of buying and selling across Manchester right now. The responses were overwhelming.

Claire Louise said: "It is wild! We tried to view a house that had been on the market for only a couple of hours and the agent had already received hundreds of calls. Vendor eventually selected only first time/cash buyers for viewings!

For anyone buying I'd recommend setting a reminder to check right move a few times a day and try and be the first one to view it."

Suze Thompson reflected the experiences of many first time buyers, saying: "I've been saving for about 6 years and now people are paying 10-15k over the asking price which isn't helping us first time buyers."

Sellers were echoing the comments of estate agents across the region, with many saying they had sold their property in just one day or with multiple offers after four days. Katie Furlong said: "Ours was sold on the first day by the first viewers for full asking price and we had 4 more lined up for the next day!"

It was a sentiment echoed by Hannah Reynolds who said: "We got asking price off the first viewer. We had booked a week worth of viewings but it was crazy! On the third day someone offered £10k over asking and she was a first time buyer."

For those selling and buying there were further frustrations. Abbie Everitt-Chambers said: "Putting ours on the market in the next couple of weeks and dreading not being able to find something/being pushed aside by first time buyers! Fingers crossed ours sells but it's our best chance of moving to the area we want because of how mental the prices have gone. We were first time buyers only 18months ago it was so stressful then, never mind with something to sell to."

Meanwhile Alison Hardy somewhat summed up the mood saying: "The only way to describe the housing market in South Manchester is brutal!"

Others were keen to urge a note of caution, with Dave Marsh saying: "A crash always follows a boom, Hold onto your hats people."

Robert Jenrick wearing a suit and tie: Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick © Peter Summers/Getty Images Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick

What is being done to address the situation?

The Government has said that 345,000 new homes are needed in England each year to supply demand, but in 2019/20 new homes only increased by 244,000. They say the amount of new homes supplied annually has been growing for several years but is still lower than the current estimated need.

The Government's manifesto pledge in 2017 was to deliver half a million homes by the end of 2022, but it's not yet clear if that figure is on course to be achieved given the impact of lockdown over the past 12 months.

Many buyers are hoping that the end of the Stamp Duty holiday, which has been extended until July 2021, may go some way to 'cool' the feverish market.

But in the meantime, for so many people, it's a case of continuing to click refresh on Rightmove.

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