The figures from our latest poll show that people believe it is a good time to buy, but not a good time to sel.
IF you've been thinking of buying a house, this year would be a good time to do it. If you're thinking of selling your house, you might want to hold off for now.
That's the mixed message coming from the Irish people on the prospects for the property market as we enter into 2013, according to the findings of the Sunday Independent Millward Brown poll.
Asked if this year would be a good time to buy, 68 per cent of those polled agreed that it would be, while a massive 76 per cent of the poll's respondents said that it would be the wrong time to sell.
While the two responses might appear to be at odds, a further consideration of the poll's findings gets to the nub of the difficulties facing Ireland's residential property market.
For prospective house buyers with cash in hand or with mortgage approval, there is a general view among the Irish people that the market is theirs to take advantage of.
For those thinking of selling, it's a fundamentally different story. The findings of our poll may suggest that anyone who puts a property on the market this year could find themselves being viewed by prospective buyers as a distressed seller, and leave themselves open to 'low ball' offers or the prospect of being gazundered.
So where does that leave the property market if there are people who want to buy houses but nobody wants to sell them? Paralysis is probably the best way to describe it.
Adding to the confusion and the fear is the Government's decision to press ahead with the imposition of the property tax. For while the levy is designed to bring certainty and stability to the State's revenues in a way that stamp duty never could, its introduction now has had a decidedly damaging impact on the people's views on property prices.
Asked if they believed the new levy which comes on stream from July 1 this year will negatively affect property prices, 60 per cent of our poll's respondents said that it would, and 26 per cent said they believed it would make no difference, while 14 per cent said they didn't know if it would make a difference or not.
But while it's clear the people view the impact of the property tax negatively, closer scrutiny of the numbers throws up an interesting finding. Pessimism would appear to be greatest in Munster, with 70 per cent of those polled in the province believing the tax will drive property prices down. That's a full seven per cent more than the 63 per cent in urban centres who think the new levy will have a negative effect on property prices. While it is difficult to draw any definite conclusion from the two numbers, could it be that the strength of demand for houses and apartments in the main cities of Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick where the prospects of employment are greatest will prove sufficient to counter falls in prices that could be experienced in the regions?
On the more general outlook for the Irish property market in 2013, those looking for a chink of light amidst the general gloom might be heartened by the respective views of the 27 per cent of our respondents who said that property prices have now stabilised and the 36 per cent who believe that they only have a little way to fall this year. Taken together, that's 63 per cent of the Irish people who believe that property prices are already at, or at least close to the bottom.
Given the distinct lack of available mortgage lending from the banking system and the parlous condition of the overall economy however, it very much remains to be seen whether the people's recovering confidence in property will find itself expressed in transactions this year.
If one had the money, however, it could already be or at least very close to the right time to buy a home according to 13 per cent of the poll's respondents. Twelve per cent believe property prices will begin to rise a little this year, while one per cent believe they will begin to rise a lot.
Their confidence is almost matched however by the 12 per cent of respondents who expressed the view that property prices still have a long way to fall in 2013. Thirteen per cent of those polled by Millward Brown said they didn't know what the prospects were for property prices this year.
Interestingly, of the 27 per cent who believe property prices have now stabilised, confidence is highest among those aged 65 and over, with 36 per cent of the respondents in this age cohort expressing this view.
Also interesting is the fact that 32 per cent of those whom we polled in Dublin agree with them, perhaps reflecting once again the belief that strong demand for homes in the capital and the commuter belt will prove sufficient to shore up values, even while they continue to fall in rural areas where there is lower demand and an oversupply of property.
Looking at the demand for different property types, the results of the Sunday Independent Millward Brown poll clearly show the Irish people's traditional preference for houses over apartments coming to the fore with 68 per cent of respondents either agreeing (45 per cent) or strongly agreeing (23 per cent) that 2013 would be a good time to buy a house. When it comes to buying apartments, a total of 57 per cent either agree (40 per cent) or strongly agree (17 per cent) that this year is the time to buy them.
While the Irish people's preference for living in houses as opposed to apartments is well-known, their return to affordability could help to explain the view expressed by a clear majority of our respondents that 2013 is a good time to buy a house.
In looking for an explanation for the strong number – 57 per cent – who believe 2013 is a good time to buy an apartment, the issue of affordability is almost certainly a strong factor, given the precipitous fall in values since the peak of the property boom.