Gazumping has returned

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Q Is it true that gazumping is on the increase again? And what does that say about the state of the market?

A Yes, there is mounting evidence from around the country that gazumping is back.

Only last month, the UK’s largest conveyancing firm reported a substantial rise in the incidence of gazumping over the summer, with just over a quarter of conveyancers seeing instances where a new buyer gazumped the original purchaser during June, July and August.

However, before fulminating against greedy buyers, it’s worth noting that the same report also revealed that some 62 per cent of conveyancers have seen a rise in the number of sellers asking for more money in mid-transaction!

This is all just one more manifestation of the current gulf between supply and demand – at a time when the economy is actually doing pretty well, and people are starting to feel better off.

Hence the surge in the number of hopeful new buyers. Agents all over the country are reporting that any properties that do come onto the market are selling pretty quickly. The trouble is, there simply aren’t enough of them.

One of the problems, as we all know, is the inability of the construction industry to build sufficient new homes to keep pace with rising demand. But it is also apparent that more and more potential second or third-steppers are opting to stay put, rather than moving house.

As a result of all this, some commentators have been suggesting that the property market is in some way dysfunctional, and implying that some pretty drastic intervention might be needed to bring it back into some notional state of ‘normality.’ Rather worryingly, for example, a recent report from The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors chose to describe those older homeowners still living in large family-sized properties as ‘house-blockers.’ A loaded term if ever there was one!

Personally, I think the property market is simply doing what all markets do - responding to supply and demand. And when the balance between them shifts again, the market will adjust. Meanwhile, I would counsel against any large-scale interference, however well-meant. Yes, the housebuilders could do more. But I sincerely hope we never reach the point where people are obliged to move every few years, just to make way for upcoming generations. Even if it means more business for estate agents!