London No Longer the Fastest UK City to Sell a Home


You’d be forgiven for assuming London would be the fastest city in the UK to find a buyer for your property. Until relatively recently, you’d have also been right on the money.

Five years ago, the average time needed to secure a buyer for property in London was just 36 days. According to Rightmove, average selling times had almost doubled by 2018, reaching approximately 60 days.

Interestingly, average property selling times in Scotland plummeted during the same period, from 66 days to just 41 days. This would suggest that sellers in Scotland are currently finding it much quicker and easier to shift their properties than equivalent sellers in the capital.

Beyond Brexit uncertainty

Various key areas of London’s property market have demonstrated signs of a rapid slowdown over recent years. The south-east of England in general has been struggling with a somewhat stagnant property market, though the most dramatic price plummets in the region have been in and around London.

In the meantime, general property prices across the rest of the UK are still on the rise.

A recent study carried out by Rightmove suggests that average property selling times in London are back where they were almost 10 years ago, in 2011. This would seem to suggest that demand is dwindling in London, which has been attributed to both Brexit and other pressing issues.

“While it would be easy to link that with the Brexit vote, there are other factors at play, especially increasingly stretched buyer affordability,” commented Rightmove’s housing market analyst, Miles Shipside.

One of the key factors affecting property sales in London is the growing reluctance among buy-to-let investors, who are discouraged from purchasing investment properties due to changes in taxation. In addition, more first-time buyers than ever before are turning to parents and grandparents to help them buy houses rather than flats.

Real estate experts have also cited Scotland’s more transparent fee structure for home buyers and sellers as a key driver of prompt property sales across the country. Hidden costs, in particular, are much less of an issue for Scottish buyers.

Advice for UK sellers

Across the board, experts are advising prospective property sellers in the UK to be both proactive and realistic, given current market conditions. It’s important to remember that, where older flats in particular are concerned, sellers face the prospect of competing with new-build developments, often with gyms, restaurants, shops, and other facilities right on their doorstep.

Rather than simply considering the value of the property as a standalone asset, it’s important to be realistic about its locality. Even if the interior of the property is pristine, it may not be an attractive prospect for first-time buyers who prioritise convenience and accessibility.

All the usual rules and guidelines continue to apply. Examples of this are to depersonalise and de-clutter your home as much as possible prior to inviting anyone over for an inspection. It needs to be presented as something of a blank canvas, allowing the prospective buyer to visualise how they would decorate the place themselves.

In addition, real estate experts are also warning sellers and buyers alike to expect a long and drawn-out process. Whereas the average conveyancing time (when buying a flat) in England and Wales was around 100 days in 2011, the figure for 2018 came out at 123 days. Hence, agreeing on a sale in the late summer could mean failing to fully close the deal before Christmas.

The patience of sellers is therefore likely to be tested in more ways than one, particularly those attempting to sell properties in and around London.