by Rachel Crook

For many people who are interested in buying property, a possible way of going about it is to sit tight and wait for evidence that the market has bottomed out.

This situation would leave property investors in the envious position of being able to buy when prices are at their lowest and enjoy a lengthy and lucrative period of gain as values recover over the next few years.

However, there is one possible snag in this strategy. Those who wait for the signs could find themselves missing out as by the time these become visible the moment will already have passed and someone else will have picked up the best bargains.

Such a point has been made forcibly twice in recent days by property professionals. Timothy Lambert, the sales manger at property consultancy Ducalian, commented that signs of the end of a downturn can come 18 months late, while those who look at the property market now should be able to see that the present is offering a range of favourable deals.

Nobody, he said, should be “fooled” into waiting for a bottoming out of the market.

Instead, he concluded: “Make no mistake, the property market is still a mess, but for investors it’s the ideal time to get back involved. With low prices and interest rates at an all time low, now is the best time to buy since the last property crash in the early 1990s.

Similar comments were made by the managing director of property investment firm Assetz, Stuart Law. He noted that the auction situation had already seen prices pass their base, stating:

“It is absolutely clear that the best prices in the market have already been seen at auction last September, October and November. Prices are beginning to go up now we have heard from auctioneers around the country.” The same, he added, was true of distressed sales.

Mr Law’s message was that those thinking of buying should start getting advice on how to go about it now. He said: “The best prices, if you can haggle a bargain, are going to be well under the house price index level and it’s those prices that are beginning to firm up and even rise now. If you are wanting to look for a bargain and are looking to haggle, your haggling power is reducing by the day.”

While the best bargains may have already gone in auction and distressed markets, the mainstream sector may seem to be a different kettle of fish. Here, a notable trend has been a recent rise in the number of buyer enquiries that has not been accompanied by any increase in sales.

However, Mr Law suggested, this is a situation that should come as no surprise. He argued that the signs that people are interested and are viewing properties need to be seen before the market picks up. This second phase will soon follow, he predicted, stating: “I think by the summer we are going to see a substantial increase in actual transactions.”

So for those keen on buying property, now may be a very good time to start the trend, rather than following it.

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Published on: March 13, 2009