Property: Will baby boom mean sales boom?

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The Independent Online
KNOW any 28-year-old women looking to get pregnant? No, I am not offering my services. It's just that they may hold the key to a resurgence in the property market over the next few years. That resurgence now seems to have begun. Both building society figures and estate agents' experiences confirm that houses are selling again and prices are edging up.

So what has all this to do with women having babies? Well, it seems that we now have more 28- year-old women than at any time in history. What is more, that is the age when most women have babies.

According to John Wriglesworth, of the city analysts UBS, children are the biggest influence on the way we live. Parents want the security of owning a home. Families also stay in one place longer, so problems such as negative equity and buying costs become less important.

It is estimated about 2.5 million babies will be born in the next couple of years, and their arrival is expected to provoke the buying boom. In the short term this will not be enough to cancel out negative forces such as the fear of unemployment, so prices will not be affected this year. But by 1994, the forecast baby boom could be edging values up by 5 per cent, Mr Wriglesworth says.

A few former hippies must be facing a crisis of conscience as they become flower-power grandparents. From what I remember, you could not get through a conversation in 1965 without quoting Proudhon's dictum that 'property is theft'.

BUILDERS certainly appear to be making plans for an influx of new buyers. Close to 41,000 homes were started in the first three months of this year. At first sight that looks fewer than the same period last year, but the figures were distorted because developers rushed to start homes in early 1992 to escape a jump in fees for warranties issued by the National Home Builders Council. After stripping this out you are left with a jump of almost a fifth in homes started, says the NHBC.

But another quirk has crept in for 1993. Almost a quarter of these new homes are being built for housing associations, which went into overdrive this year to beat the 31 March deadline for a huge government spending programme.

Buyers are still the main target, however, and they are paying prices ranging from pounds 40,000 in Northern Ireland, where 1,700 new homes were sold between January and March, to pounds 63,000 in the South-east (8,700 homes sold). More evidence of the narrowing North-South divide emerges, however, from the fact that the typical price in Scotland during that period was pounds 60,000 - only pounds 1,000 less than in London.

ANOTHER hope for a continued revival of the housing market is that post-boom price falls have failed to shake the public's confidence in home ownership. According to a study by the London Research Centre, three out of four people in the capital think home- buying is the best housing option - exactly the same proportion as before the slump.

Most home-owners say they are happy with their houses, but not so satisfied that they would not like an even better place: the study indicates that more than 2.7 million families would like to move. This pent-up demand must gladden the hearts of owners who have given up hope of finding a buyer. There is one fly in the ointment: about 400,000 of those would like to get out of London altogether.

They may like their homes, but not the crowding, traffic congestion and noise.

WE APPEAR to have more in common with the French than squabbles over a united Europe suggest. A similar survey over there reveals that most people still feel property is a good investment. They also share the same attitudes to what they want from housing: it must be in a quiet neighbourhood or be well soundproofed. This ranks as more important than the look of a place or its closeness to schools and transport.

This triumph of peace over style belies the stereotype of fashion- conscious Paris and rioting farmers. It will also bring hope to hundreds of British owners of remote holiday cottages and elegant chateaux still looking for a buyer. Unfortunately, the survey also shows the French are not interested in old property. But if you have a sound-proofed, modern place, away from rioting farmers and fishermen, you might be in with a chance.