Overview: The summer lull is starting a month early

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The Independent Online

The summer weather we have been enjoying must have been a sharp reminder for vendors that the holidays are only around the corner and there is still a house to sell. A property market equivalent of global warming has seen the seasons start ever earlier, so that the spring market tends to kick off in January and goes into a summer lull at the end of June.

The summer weather we have been enjoying must have been a sharp reminder for vendors that the holidays are only around the corner and there is still a house to sell. A property market equivalent of global warming has seen the seasons start ever earlier, so that the spring market tends to kick off in January and goes into a summer lull at the end of June.

This doesn't augur well for anyone who had planned to be in a new home by the start of the school year in September. At this time of year estate agents are used to spelling out the harsh truth to those of their clients who thought that when they put their homes up for sale in May they would have a good three months in hand.

In the Sevenoaks area of Kent, where family houses are invariably in short supply, Peter Rowe of estate agents Lane Fox has few words of comfort. "If you haven't sold your house by now and need to be in situ elsewhere by September, you should be panicking. Since the weather heated up, Beckham took his team to Portugal and the Governor of the Bank of England made his comments warning of falling house prices, the phones have really quietened down. July is now the quiet month that August once was."

He points out that in common with most private schools, Sevenoaks School finishes in two weeks' time, after which families simply pack up their children and head off on holiday.

Sellers can either do the same, or prepare themselves for August, which has proved in recent years to be far the busier month. Again in Sevenoaks, which attracts a significant number of people working in the financial industry, those who have been posted abroad tend to return in August.

This year, Peter Rowe expects to see more expats calling it a day in Saudi Arabia when their contracts come to an end. "August will be a different story," he says. "The £1million-plus market will remain slow - it has done since the spring with 90 or so properties on the market in the area and probably only 10 buyers - however, the market up to £850,000 will benefit and kick back in."

This is music to the ears of Jill Lewis-Ranwell, who has just put her house near Sevenoaks on the market for £750,000. She and her family have to be in Taunton for September but want to see at least some interest in the house before they start searching in earnest.

"It might have been better to have waited for a month, but we haven't got the time," says Lewis-Ranwell. "We are considering renting in the West Country but because it's a holiday area we would be lucky to find anything before the end of August."

She has been advised by agents not to remove the furniture from her house because it helps a sale.

Judgments about the likely state of the market in the next few weeks vary from place to place. In Shropshire, for instance, people arriving in the area for the summer make for a livelier July and August for house sales. But an avoidable factor is where the price is pitched. Mark Wiggin, director of Lane Fox's Midlands offices says that anything that has been on the market for six to eight weeks and hasn't sold is almost certainly overpriced. Either that or the vendor should be reviewing the performance and marketing strategy of the agent.

The summer effect is less marked when it comes to selling apartments, either in London or other cities, since the target buyer is unlikely to need to observe school dates. However, it is generally more difficult to knit together a deal during the holiday months as most of the professionals involved will be away at some point. For those sellers who don't have the luxury of picking their selling time, they should heed the wise - and timeless - message from agents that a well-presented, sensibly priced property will always sell. You will always find a buyer for something of real quality.

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