Will 2013 look a lot like 2012 in the local housing market? The answer is yes.

After another busy year at Horton and Garton we are expanding our team. Do I sound surprised? Well, to be honest I am. Like any small business owner, these are nerve-wracking economic times that are seeing households fret about cash, jobs and pensions. But when it comes to the West London property market, it seems that those uncertainties are actually fuelling a boom in prices – and this will continue into 2013.

Confused yet? The acute shortage of properties is distorting the local housing market – particularly when it comes to one-bedroom flats, or the bottom-rung of the property ladder. People just aren’t selling and instead they are renting them out and keeping them as investments. Add to that the falling numbers of genuine first-time buyers who have scrapped together enough for a deposit, regardless of the attractive rates, and it’s forcing up the price of renting, which is fuelling speculative buying, and the shortage gets more acute. Welcome to 2013.

So, it’s not a great time to be renting. And 2013 won’t be great either. But for those who own properties and rent them out, find yourself good tenants and life becomes a lot easier. For buyers, it’s the same problem. There is a lack of properties on the market for families. Every developer who divided big properties into three small flats is kicking themselves or furiously trying to piece them back together for the big payday of selling a Zone 2 family home in the ever-improving and fabulously well-connected area of Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush.

The worse the economy gets, the more W6 and W12 are insulated from the problem by London’s attractiveness to foreign buyers, job seekers and for those with Zone 1 lifestyles but Zone 2 money.  Interestingly, the biggest surprise this year was the arrival of the West London Free School. All the talk at the school gate is about school places. It’s such a big factor around here. People have been moving to the area from Kensington and Chelsea to rent because of the new free school, which is really proving a lure.  Hammersmith is officially becoming more fashionable, and more family-friendly. People used to move to places like Chiswick or Fulham, but now people aren’t moving away from W6. And those who cannot afford Hammersmith are seeking to buy on the other side of Goldhawk Road – with handy profits being made on unmodernised houses and flats in streets near Cathnor Park and Wendell Park.

Just look around the streets of W6 and W12 and you will see plenty of skips and scaffolding. This is not just properties trading hands, its families expanding their homes rather than get hit with a big Stamp Duty fees to move a few streets.

And lo and behold, even the number of basement conversions is on the rise, something that was previously believed to be uneconomic in anything but the top areas of Hammermsith.

However, it’s not all up, up and away. Rather, because every buyer is counting their pennies, there is a better sense of realistic valuations in the market. Market your property at the wrong price point and you’ll either be laughed at or you’ll have to replace the carpets because of the number of viewings your estate agent has done.

So here is the most important lesson learned in 2012, which will serve you even better in 2013: know your market. And once you’ve done your homework, whether you are buying, selling or renting, find a local estate agent who knows the area. People are more and more particular about the area where they want to live, and that’s something we understand at Horton & Garton, where all our staff live locally and know the area. So when it’s your turn to make the leap into the property market, come talk to the local experts.