ASK THE EXPERT

Q. How do I tell when it’s a good time to buy?

A. That rather depends on whether you need to sell first in order to buy, and if so, whether you are trading up or down.

In many ways, there is actually no such thing as a good market – or a bad one, come to that. What you have is either a buyers’ market or a sellers’ market – and each has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on which side of the equation you find yourself.

If you are a cash buyer, of course, then there’s no time like the present, since there are some remarkable bargains to be had right now. But what if prices continue to fall for some time to come, as several pundits are predicting? Well, you could hang on, in the hope of getting an even better bargain, but this is a risky strategy – firstly, because some other cash buyer might come along in the meantime, and snaffle the very home you’ve got your eye on, and secondly, because no-one can ever predict the bottom of the market. The only time you can know for sure that prices have bottomed out is when they start going up again – and then, of course, it’s too late!

So, if you’re a cash buyer, then my advice would be to buy now – and stop fretting over whether you might have been able to save a bit more by waiting a few months. Yes, prices may drop a little further before they start to recover, but if you view this as a long-term investment, this needn’t worry you at all.

Meanwhile…if you need to sell somewhere else in order to buy, then much depends on whether you are trading up or down. If it’s the former, then this is a good time to make your move, since you will save more on the larger, more expensive property you are buying than you notionally lose on the smaller one you are selling. Of course, if you are contemplating downsizing to a smaller property, then the reverse is also true. If this is the case, there is therefore an argument for hanging on until the market starts to pick up again. Nevertheless, there’s still no denying that there are a lot of very attractive bargains around, right now…