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Buying a home: how to get a bargain as house prices slow down

October asking prices have increased by smallest amount in eight years

The traditional autumn property boom is yet to materialise, with house prices stalling and homes taking longer to sell.

That’s according to new data from property portal Rightmove, which shows that between September and October asking prices increased by the lowest amount since 2010.

But does this represent a window of opportunity for homebuyers?

Here, we take a look at the house price and market data and offer advice on getting a bargain this autumn.

  • For advice on your mortgage options, call Which? Mortgage Advisers on 0800 197 8461 or fill out the form at the bottom of the article for a free call from an adviser.

Asking prices up by 1% in September

Autumn is traditionally a very popular time to move house, with more than 100,000 transactions going through each month between September and November in 2017 – but that could be set to change this year.

Research by Rightmove shows asking prices increased by just 1% in September, the lowest monthly rise at this time of year since 2010.

Overall, the average national asking price hit £304,061 in September, up from £301,973 in August.

The table below shows how asking prices changed in different sectors of the market (excluding inner London). ‘Second steppers’ are those who are making the move from their first property to their second, while ‘top of the ladder’ means detached properties with four or more bedrooms or any property with five or more bedrooms.

September 2018 August 2018 Monthly change
First-time buyers £190,842 £189,451 +0.7%
Second steppers £273,297 £273,446 -0.1%
Top of the ladder £536,983 £532,294 +0.9%


House price changes by region

The housing market varies significantly from region to region, so it’s dangerous to draw conclusions from national data.

In the interactive map below, we’ve logged how asking prices changed around the UK in the last year.

The results show that the biggest rises were in the West Midlands, where asking prices increased by 5.5% in a year, while both London and South East England saw them drop.

If you hover your mouse over a region, you can view month-on-month price changes, average asking prices and the number of days a property takes to sell in each area.

  • Compare quality of life, average house prices and the number of outstanding schools in different areas by using our area comparison tool.

Is it a good time to buy a property?

It’s worth bearing in mind that the Rightmove House Price Index looks at asking prices (based on the properties listed on its portal) rather than sold prices.

There’s some debate over the size of the gap between asking and sold prices, though this year it’s become increasingly clear that few properties actually sell for their full asking price. In fact research published by the National Association of Estate Agents in March found that 86% of properties were sold for less than their asking price, the highest percentage since it started keeping records in 2013.

In further good news for bargain-hunting buyers, there are signs that estate agents are now taking longer to sell properties, with the average number of days hitting 61 in September, up from 58 a year earlier.

How to grab a property bargain this autumn

If you’re ready to buy a home, there are some steps you can take to make yourself stand out from the crowd and potentially get a bargain:

  1. Do your research on the property. Before making an offer, find out everything you can about the property and its seller. Research recent sale prices nearby and find out how long the property has been on the market and whether its price has previously been reduced.
  2. Don’t trust everything an estate agent tells youEstate agents work for the seller, not the buyer. With this in mind, take anything they tell you with a pinch of salt. Also be wary of ‘new’ listings on property portals – the home might have been taken down by the agent and re-listed several times to give the impression that it’s new on the market.
  3. Consider getting a mortgage agreement in principle (AIP). If you want to show you’re a serious buyer and can get the transaction completed quickly, you could obtain a mortgage agreement in principle from a lender before making an offer. While this agreement isn’t set in stone until you’ve made a full application, it’ll give you an idea of what you can borrow and provide some peace of mind to the seller. Get professional advice from a mortgage broker first, though, as taking out an AIP can leave a mark on your credit file which can be problematic when you come to applying for the mortgage itself.
  4. Make yourself attractive to sellers. Don’t be shy when it comes to promoting yourself. If you’ve got your agreement in principle and a conveyancer and house surveyor lined up, make this clear to the buyer. Likewise, if you’re chain-free or a cash buyer, this could help you get the nod over any other bidders.
  5. Start low with your offer. In a market where prices are slowing down and homes are taking longer to sell, the ball is in your court. When sellers set their asking price, they should expect to negotiate and get knocked down, so be prepared to go in low and haggle to get the best deal. If you’re not comfortable doing this, get somebody to negotiate on your behalf, or if the stakes are high, consider employing a buying agent.

Find out more in our guides:

Advice on finding the right mortgage

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a home mover, it can be difficult to get your head around the vast array of mortgage deals currently on the market.

That’s why it can make sense to speak to an impartial, whole-of-market mortgage broker about your options before rushing in.

You can call Which? Mortgage Advisers on 0800 197 8461 or fill out the form below for a free call back.

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.

Which? Limited is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which? Financial Services Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029). Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which? Money Compare are trading names of Which? Financial Services Limited.

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