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Was that the storm before the calm?

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Sponsored feature | Tim Middleton, partner, BDB Pitmans

Tim Middleton, partner, BDB Pitmans (50611104)
Tim Middleton, partner, BDB Pitmans (50611104)

The vagaries of the residential property market are well recorded, as it seems to lurch from bubble to slump just as our economy slides from robust health to recession with monotonous regularity. But even by the market’s usual standards the last 18 months have been extraordinary – reflecting the strange times that our country and the world has been through.

In the early spring of 2020, the market was waking from its post-Christmas slumber and gearing up for action in the way it usually does. Activity levels were rising and lawyers were preparing to transact properties as normal, notwithstanding some wariness about this ‘coronavirus thing’ that appeared to be worrying some people.

Suddenly, the first lockdown struck, putting the entire market and 90 per cent of existing transactions into stasis. Lawyers busied themselves drafting contract conditions to address the potential impact of Covid-19 on transactions (few of which were ever used), only to find themselves in a perfect storm as soon as restrictions were eased. This was caused by the sudden unfreezing of a rising spring market, the stamp duty land tax (SDLT) incentive provided by the government, and the realisation by those working from home for the first time that this was an attractive lifestyle for which they needed a new home.

Was that the storm before the calm in the housing market?
Was that the storm before the calm in the housing market?

It was unpredictable how long this boom would last. By the spring of this year it was still going strong and the government was persuaded that the market would ‘fall off a cliff’ if it did not extend the SDLT holiday until June 30. But this just gave the market more time in which to build to a crescendo of activity, with many lawyers (and doubtless their clients) muttering the words ‘never again’ as the new deadline approached.

So what now? Inevitably, the pace of the market has recently steadied with so many transactions concertina-ed into an artificially tight deadline and the summer holidays in full flow. But the SDLT holiday ending on September 30 has enticed few buyers into the market and there is a sense that the good times may be coming to an end, at least for now.

As a result, those involved in the Cambridge residential market will be watching more keenly than ever to see if the usual post-holiday spike happens this month. However, if there is one thing we have learned over many years it is that the market for residential property in Cambridge is likely to weather any storm which might be coming in the future.

Tim Middleton is a partner in BDB Pitmans’ private real estate team in Cambridge. Contact timmiddleton@bdbpitmans.com or visit bdbpitmans.com.

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