THE Cheshire property market continues to defy expectations, with the number of house sales agreed in the county increasing by 20 per cent in the first part of this year, agents have said.

However, according to new research from Savills, new instructions were down 23 per cent at a county level (including Trafford) for the same period versus January-February 2020, underlining what has been labelled ‘prime conditions for sellers’ with demand far exceeding supply.

This was the message from local and national property experts, who presented analysis of the Cheshire market to more than 100 local buyers and sellers at a recent virtual event.

Driven by changing buyer needs as a result of Covid-19, Savills offices in Chester, Knutsford and Wilmslow saw a 53 per cent increase in sales agreed compared to 2019, with 49 per cent of all buyers coming from outside Cheshire. While new instructions may have fallen in the region there has been an increase in buyer registrations with the Knutsford office alone seeing a 123 per cent rise, underlining a commitment to move.

According to a recent survey carried out by Savills, the rollout of the vaccine and relaxation of lockdown has not only boosted confidence but also strengthened a commitment to move in the short, medium and longer term. Net balance of opinion on commitment to move over the next 3, 6, 12 and 24 months had increased by 19 per cent, 20 per cent, 23 per cent and 25 per cent respectively since the previous survey.

Charlie Kannreuther, head of Savills residential sales in the North West, explains: “This is the most significant shift in buyer behaviour that I have seen in my entire career.

"The main drivers in the Cheshire market are a desire for outside space, home working – including good connectivity, a sense of community, leisure and good schools.

"Cheshire has always been a very popular relocation market and the latest client and applicant survey results suggest that demand is likely to remain strong throughout all of this year and into 2022.

“Sales agreed between June 2020 and February of this year are up 44 per cent compared to the same period of the previous year which, coupled with the fact that 52 per cent of the properties we have either sold or agreed sales for received multiple offers, underlines just how active the market continues to be.

"With 23 per cent less housing stock outweighed by significant increases in buyer registrations across our Chester, Wilmslow and Knutsford offices, the time is clearly right to sell. These are prime conditions for sellers.”

Cheshire’s lettings market was also under the spotlight during the webinar, where it was revealed that half of the properties let by Savills have received multiple offers while the ‘golden triangle’ area between Altrincham, Knutsford and Alderley Edge is widening.

With sellers taking advantage of Stamp Duty incentives, Savills has also reported that over a fifth (22 per cent) of tenants are offering money up front in an attempt to differentiate themselves with cash available following house sales, with longer term lets also trending.

With such a competitive lettings market, tenants are starting to look further afield in the county provided the specification is right.

Tom Burke and Charlie Kannreuther.

Tom Burke and Charlie Kannreuther.

Tom Burke, head of Cheshire lettings at Savills, says: “The prime Cheshire lettings market has always been busy, underpinned by three main types of tenant – those trying before they buy, corporate lets and renovators.

"However, in the last 12 months we have seen a surge in city leavers and stop-gap sellers super-charge the market. This, coupled with the supply and demand imbalance noted in the residential sales market, has led to a family house frenzy across Cheshire in lettings primarily in the four- to six-bedroom house market.

“Multiple offers on rental properties, to the extent that we have seen them, is very uncommon and has led to emerging prime rental locations such as Appleton, Malpas, Middlewich and The Wirral competing with Cheshire’s more established rental hotspots, in terms of yield.

"It’s all very good news for the region’s landlords – I don’t think I’ve seen a better market for family house landlords in terms of projected house price growth and long-term, high-value lets.”

Savills is predicting that house prices in the North West of England will increase by 4.5 per cent this year and by 28.8 per cent in the five years to 2025.

It means the average house price in the region would increase from £176,925 to £227,879 by 2025. Nationally, prices are expected to increase by an average of four per cent this year, with 21.1 per cent total growth from 2021-2025.

Residential research analyst Faisal Choudhry added: “The outlook has improved since the beginning of the year given the speed of the vaccination programme, the expected relaxation of social distancing measures and government support for both jobs and the housing market.

“Looking further ahead, the government will need to begin to recoup some of the costs of its pandemic support packages, something we might see once the economic recovery takes hold. This moderates price growth expectations later this year and through the next two years.

"However, in terms of house price growth, the market remains price sensitive despite high demand levels.”