Gimme Shelter


Gimme Shelter

I’ve been off for a month, and so whilst I was calling round checking in with the offices, I was put on hold. Our hold music is Gimme Shelter by the Stones (perhaps the most satisfying thing I’ve achieved as a small business owner?).

And having recently observed matters from an absence and a distance this seemed rather apposite for the New Year.

Mick and Keef wrote the song in 1969, as the swinging sixties came to a dark and chaotic climax – the counter-cultural revolution and the civil rights movement had segued from peace and love to conflict and anger. The Vietnam War, and with it the Cold War, had both escalated to apocalypse-foretelling tensions.

1969 was too dark and scary even for those masters of chaos, the Stones.

And I had similar feelings as I returned to work this month.

Things looked pretty ropey – what with the ‘Special Military Operations’ in the Ukraine and the Middle East raging (both overseen by old, bald, insecure, little white men coincidentally), Trump on the comeback trail, a ‘technical’ recession (trust me the word technical is important), a fag butt of a government who are objectively, literally, useless (tenner says Joel and I could do better), and a general election looming in the middle distance*.

Times looked tough.

Anyway, you’re not here for grandiloquent socio-political commentary. No, you’re here for perspicacious property market reportage.

So how are things in the iridescent and sparkly snow-globe of The Wandsworth Property World?

Well, the point is that when I started writing this from afar, I was going to title it ‘Gimme Shelter’.

But having been put on hold, and then been put through, and spoken to people, I can say that things are refreshingly, um, iridescent and sparkly.

It’s too early to speak definitively, but the early signs are v good (some highlights of which we sent out last Friday). When I read them, I thought, “hang on, there ain’t no need for shelter, our ever-resilient market is rising from its mid-winter slumber and getting down to business.”

Let’s look at a YOY comparison (admittedly, last Jan the market was still being buffeted by the turbulent tailwind of Trussonmics, but still the stats look good).

  • Offers up 111%
  • Viewing numbers up 62%
  • Registered buyers up 133%
  • Sales agreed up 101% (and more sales agreed than the excellent Jan of 2022!)
  • Sealed bid up 300%!

But, there’s lies, damned lies etc eh..?

So, I surveyed the sentiment of The Heads of Five Families, sorry offices. I asked them to respond to me on a sliding scale of 1-10, where 1 is ‘I’m speaking to you from the Eagle Ale House because I’m so bored’ and 10 is ‘I can’t cope with all the activity, so I’m speaking to you from the Eagle Ale House’.

The average was 8.

Things have changed.

There’s now a buzz in the weekly sales meeting, and it’s a buzz of expectation rather than the pre-Christmas buzz of gentle snoring.

Sales negotiators are shiny, happy people once again. They rush around grinning inanely and turn up to work early (and sober) and stay late.

People of Wandsworth have accepted that free money is a thing of the past, and almost definitely not a thing of the future; that inflation, and so rates, seem to be under control.

They’ve accepted that the next government, can’t possibly be as bad as the current one, and therefore, by definition, must be better. And that Trump will probably be excluded, imprisoned, or simply explode in a bright yellow and orange puff of smoke before the US election.

I would suggest that after more than a year of drifting listlessly on the moribund millpond of uncertainty, the good burghers of Wandsworth have had enough and are getting on with their lives.

They’ve waited too long to do something they need to do, i.e. move home.

This is not Chelsea or Kensington where a super-rich Tech-tit fancies adding a townhouse to his portfolio, or a Hedgie/Oligarch wants a lateral penthouse for his mistress.

No, this is Wandsworth!

A market is driven by, with and for the people!

The property sales round here are not ones made of luxuriant whimsy, they are ones made of familial necessity. People don’t stop marrying, breeding, divorcing, dying, and growing up just because interest rates are rising.

And so, I’m cautiously, rather optimistic.

However, to misquote Donal Rumsfeld (apparently the most unpleasant man to ever prowl the West Wing), there are many known unknowns that await us – many things that we know we don’t know that lurk ahead – but then there are also many unknown unknowns – things that we don’t know that we don’t know, that might also lurk ahead. The thing is we just don’t know…

But, one thing I do know is that long-term over-demand, and under-supply have, for as long as I have done this job, kept the London market propped up.

Yes, it’s wobbled and heaved and pitched and rolled, but it’s always pushed onwards and upwards.

People are NOT suddenly going to stop wanting to live and work in London, and the government are NOT suddenly going to start building sufficient housing (whatever either manifesto might say).

So, bearing all of this in mind, I have decided not to seek shelter with The Stones in the Red Lion in Barnes (as I used to after their sessions at Olympic, but that’s another story). No, I’ve decided to join the anarchic punk rockers of Wandsworth in thinking Never Mind the Bollocks, it’s time to get on with life…

Best wishes
Patrick Rampton 
*Quick PS on elections. There have been eight elections since I’ve been doing this. Each one has produced a brief pause in the market, followed, almost immediately, by a continuation of what was going on before. As the herd munch serenely on the savannahs of the Serengeti, they pause briefly to ponder the faint whiff of lion on the breeze, and then get back to the serious business of ruminant digestion…also, another tenner says that the forthcoming election will be good for us – the government will chuck an electoral bribe at the housing market, something along the lines of help-to-buy or a tinkering with stamp duty. Trust me, I’m an estate agent…