Q&A with Alex Stuart

Guernsey, Open Market

Swoffers has weathered various market conditions over the years, but the turbulence brought about by rising interest rates presented particular obstacles in 2023. The housing market faced increased pressure, affecting everything from property demand to mortgage affordability. But as Swoffers’ Open Market negotiator Alex Stuart explains, interest levels from relocators considering Guernsey remains high, and activity levels are increasing again.


Q: What was 2023 like for property sales?

A: Open Market sales were reduced in 2023, indirectly due to increased interest rates and inflation. But enquiries from people wanting to relocate to the island remained high but for some applicants the ability to do so depended on other factors such as selling their existing property or business, which was made more challenging due to the economic climate in the UK. Positively, Swoffers was still responsible for 64% of Open Market agency sales during 2023.


Q: What lessons did you learn?

A: That our unrivalled experience and having the largest team of skilled negotiators is invaluable. It is clear that Guernsey is still an attractive destination appealing to lots of potential relocators; we were in contact and did many viewings with applicants looking to move to Guernsey.


Q: Your sales figures were still remarkable considering the economic conditions, especially in comparison to the rest of the industry. What do you put this down to?

A: On the Open Market, we are a team of five experienced negotiators who work hard for our vendors. We have a substantial number of contacts and good relationships with all intermediaries on the island, which allows us to deal with enquiries across all levels of the market.


Q: What makes Swoffers different?

A: We have a deep understanding of the market we work within, as well as a very powerful website and marketing techniques that enable extensive reach.  We are very proud of our global digital presence. Over the last twelve months our website had more than 1,000,000 visits. While modern technology is a great benefit to us, I feel it is important to say that we also still value using traditional techniques and pride ourselves on keeping in contact with our clients and applicants be it by simply having a conversation over the telephone or a face to face meeting.


Q: Does panic ever set in when the market drops? If not why not?

A: I don’t believe panic sets in when a market drop happens. Activity reduces as people take a step back to consider the situation, which is often a global event. Generally, the reasons for market activity reducing affects everyone. Vendors and applicants understand that market activity can be affected by external factors, panic does not set in, but people may be more considered before making moves within the property market.


Q: What have the first few months of 2024 been like for you?

A: The start of 2024 has been positive for us. Once again, we are proud to have dominated the open market and to the end of Q1 we have been responsible for 81% of agency sales, including the most valuable open market sale so far this year. As we head through spring and into summer, we expect activity to increase further.


Q: Why do you think confidence is returning?

A: After the unprecedented levels of activity during and after the covid pandemic, it was inevitable that activity levels would reduce. This reduction in activity was more notable due to the rapid increase in interest rates and inflation last year. Settling interest rates and inflation, and acceptance that rates are unlikely to drop to the ‘artificially’ low levels they were previously, helps confidence return to the market.


Q: As we approach the UK general election has there been more noise from relocators considering Guernsey?

A: Yes, this has been a factor for some of our relocators. Historically, the potential of a change in government to Labour has been positive for Guernsey. We expect enquiry levels to increase this year due to this factor, most likely once a firm date has been set for the election.


Q: How do you see the rest of the year and into 2025 looking?

A: Due to a culmination of the factors that I have touched on already, we are optimistic that the rest of this year will be positive for the open market. Guernsey is still a highly attractive destination for many people seeking high quality of life, safety and security, and a favourable tax position.

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