Column: Simon Gerrard discusses where to find the best property investment opportunities in north London

Simon Gerrard

Simon Gerrard - Credit: Archant

Simon Gerrard, the president of the National Association of Estate Agents, uses his expert advice to answer questions about investing in property

When is the best time of the year to buy or sell a property?

Many people believe, and it is true that traditionally, March and April were when people set their minds to moving home. This was partly due to having been cooped up inside all winter, so it was not uncommon for people to want to find somewhere larger or brighter to live in the Spring.

Historically, the market then appeared to take a break for the summer as families took this opportunity to holiday, before revving up again in the autumn as people tried to move and be settled into a new home for Christmas. This would seem to intimate that the best time to sell a property would be in the Spring or Autumn, and that the best time to buy a property is in the middle of Summer or at Christmas.

However, as we have recovered from the downturn in 2008 this has not necessarily been the case as other factors have meant that the market has been much less seasonal and so we have seen a flattening out of these peaks and troughs with sellers and buyers active throughout the year. For example August was busier than expected while September was quieter. Then October has been one of the busiest on record.

However the principal motivators for moving home remain births, deaths, marriages and jobs. These factors rarely play by the seasons. So ultimately, and the simplest answer to this question is; the best time is the one that suits your personal circumstances.

The winter months are actually a great time to look for a new home. Those that have their property up for sale will have a genuine reason for moving and will be motivated to sell. Another good reason is that if you fall in love with a property on a cold and bleak winter’s day; just imagine what it will be like on a warm sunny summer’s day.

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I’m looking for an investment opportunity. How can I get the best return, and where?

North and north west London have always been sound parts of the country to invest in. Over the past 40 years or so we have seen property values increase by more than 3,000 per cent compared to the overall UK average of 1,833pc.

Crouch End and Muswell hill have seen higher than the average percentage increases, primarily as 30 years ago, these areas were less fashionable and in need of regeneration.

Foreign investment together with the fact that there is a finite amount of property in the center of London, compared to the demand to live in London (which is only set to increase) has seen the prime areas of London spread further out from the center and thus areas such as Crouch End and Muswell have been regenerated as they become trendy, pushing prices up.

It is unlikely that these areas will become less sought after by the private rented sector, so they will undoubtedly give you a stable return on your investment and investors are less likely to suffer from long voids as long as the asking rent is set correctly. The value of a recognized rent guarantee product offered by your letting agent can also provide additional peace of mind, after all letting to a bad tenant can cost far more than a short void.

To get the best rate of return may require a crystal ball, however if you are looking for growth, investing in more run down areas in London that benefit from transport links into central London but are currently perceived as less desirable could be worth considering, as London continues to spread. Although here, in the short term you may suffer from longer voids and initially a lower rate of return.

One of the most important factors when looking for a property as an investment, in order to get the best return, is to choose a property that will minimize any potential void periods – the time it is empty between tenants – so don’t look for a property that suits your tastes, make sure it best suits your potential tenants. The property needs to be neutrally decorated and be near to transport and local amenities.

If you have a question for Simon Gerrard, email ham& Mr Gerrard is managing director of north London estate agents, Martyn Gerrard.

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