By Rachel Mortimer
Thousands of homes selling above asking price.
More than a third of home sales were subject to a bidding war last year, as a record number of buyers paid more than the asking price.
The share of homes sold in this way – defined as having three or more offers – hit 37pc in 2021, the highest figure since estate agency Hamptons began collating the data in 2010.
The vast imbalance between supply and demand pushed the proportion of properties selling for above the asking price to a record high. The share of sellers who achieved above the asking price in England and Wales exceeded 31pc last year. This was up from 19pc in 2020, 17pc in 2019 and 11pc a decade ago.
A dire shortage of properties for sale led to bidding wars breaking out, as desperate purchasers stretched themselves to buy bigger homes in leafier neighbourhoods. The lack of homes for sale that created the cut-throat market is predicted to continue this year.
The average estate agent branch has just 12 properties for sale, according to property website Rightmove. This has sped up the average time to sell: in December, buyers snapped up homes two weeks quicker than the same month in 2020.
This stark shortage of homes for sale, and the huge demand, has also pushed more buyers to sell “off market”, without publicly advertising.
More than 135,000 homeowners sold “off market” in 2021, a 60pc increase on the roughly 84,500 who sold in each of the previous two years.
The share of homes selling after three or more offers was highest in Scotland, where the nature of the property market means sales often include a closing date by which all interested parties must have submitted an offer.
Harry Maitland, of agency Savills, said: “Last year was a remarkable year. I can count on one hand those properties that didn’t have multiple offers or achieve their asking price.”
He said coastal areas and key commuter villages had proved the most competitive, especially among families, buyers moving from outside of Scotland, or those looking for a holiday home.
The share of homes subject to bidding wars never fell below 30pc last year.
He added: “Special properties in a good location can sell for more than 50pc over the asking price.
“There was one renovated bungalow with a sea view overlooking the beach near Elie [in Fife] which was on the market for around £425,000. It had 70 viewings in 10 days and had 22 offers – I have never seen that before. It sold for more than 50pc over its valuation.”
The finite nature of the stamp duty holiday, which ran from July 2020 to September 2021, cranked up pressure on buyers, pushing them into bidding wars.
But the share of homes selling above the asking price was still at a record high towards the end of the year, after the holiday had ended.
In March 2021, the month the tax break was initially intended to end, 26pc of homes sold for more than they were originally listed. By October this had increased to almost 38pc and was still at 35pc in December.
Ms Whitfield added: “A few of our properties in the Cotswolds sold for millions in excess of the guide price. Buyers are really having to sell themselves to get ahead in the race, some have been writing letters to sellers, trying to humanise their bid.
“In some sales the vendor’s cars have even been negotiated into the sales, because buyers are moving out of London and buying a property with land for which they need a four-wheel drive.”
Despite a well-documented exodus from London last year, bidding wars were also prevalent in the more high-end areas of the capital, said Tom Kain, of Black Brick, a buying agent.