Tina Dedman, Sales and Marketing Director, Berkeley Homes (Eastern Counties) Ltd reflects on the past year.
"In spite of the continued tough economic climate with the constraints of mortgage availability still having a huge impact on prospective home buyers, this year has certainly exceeded our expectations in terms of house and apartment sales across the Kent region.
"We had over 500 pre-registered applicants prior to the launch of our Ryewood development in Sevenoaks earlier in the year, so we were confident interest in the homes would be high. However, we didn't anticipate that we would have sold 95 per cent of the first phase of homes just eight months later. Demand is such that we have brought forward the launch of the next phase to the early part of 2013. It is a similar story for our development at Holborough Lakes where we will be releasing the next phase of homes ahead of schedule too.
"It seems there is a shortage of good quality housing stock across the region, which has meant that more people are prepared to buy a property off plan and rent in the interim in order to secure the home they want, as well as securing a home at today's market prices.
"In terms of buyer profiles this year, we have seen activity across the whole spectrum of buyers in Kent. In spite of the restrictions on securing a mortgage, first time buyer sales have continued to gain momentum, some with help from the Bank of Parents, but many are making the most of the government schemes like Firstbuy and NewBuy too.
"Investors are also cashing in on the low mortgage rates, particularly at Ryewood in Sevenoaks. The demand for rental accommodation amongst young people trapped in the rental market has boosted opportunities for cash-rich landlords looking to make the most of rental yields which are currently at a far higher rate than investors can typically earn in a savings account. Today's property prices and lower interest rates make it a win-win situation for landlords right now.
"At our Holborough Lakes development, the homes are continuing to appeal to second steppers and both growing and established families, with the onsite crèche, leisure facilities and proximity to good local schools making it an attractive location.
"Kingsbrook Park in Canterbury, as well as being popular with first time buyers, is also attracting a lot of interest from downsizers, with many of the more mature purchasers returning back to the area for their golden years. Riverside views, landscaped gardens and the close proximity of the historic town, just a short stroll along the River Stour, is definitely part of the appeal.
"So what is in store for the housing market in 2013? Latest figures released last month from Savills expects the long-awaited ripple of wealth to manifest itself in the prime commuter zones around London next year, meaning locations such as Sevenoaks will see values rise, making this the main part of the prime market to see any price growth in 2013.
So, given the poor returns on savings currently offered by banks and building societies, for those with money in the bank, now is a great time to invest in bricks and mortar, either in a buy to let property, or as an owner-occupier looking for a new home.