According to Nationwide, house prices are below their long-term trend for the first time since 2001. Figures released by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors , show that although the number of properties sold hit a record low at the end of 2008, the number of enquiries rose at the fastest pace since August 2006.

It is a cracking time to be buying, says property finder James Greenwood from Stacks Property Search & Acquisition.‘There is hardly any competition, so you have the field to yourself. Prices have been discounted, there are people who have to sell and some real bargains to be had from 30-35% off peak value,’ he says. ‘This is not just the best opportunity for a decade – it could be the opportunity of a lifetime.’

Another property finder, Jonathan Haward from County Homesearch, says that like RICS’ members, he has had more enquiries from potential purchasers. ‘As we are right at the sharp end of any housing market transactions we predict continued growth in buyer activity.’

Mr Haward adds that those buyers who do not need to get a mortgage can rely on house finders to negotiate ‘some very real bargains, and even if prices dip by another 5-10% we can see excellent price growth starting in 2010. In five years, today’s buyer will be sitting on a substantial profit.’

In London, it is still a buyer’s market and you can negotiate, especially if you have cash, points out Richard Barber from agents WA Ellis.

‘Personally, I wouldn’t buy into a large, new build scheme at the moment,’ he says. ‘With the cost of refurbishment coming down as more builders look for work, I would favour a traditional, tatty home that needs converting near a Tube station in a good area.’

* Country Houses for sale 

Historically, you get a lot of bang for your buck in certain places, where John Young, country homes consultant for Humberts, recommends buying. He suggests Devon, Somerset, East Kent and Lincolnshire, ‘which offers extraordinarily good value and it is close to London.’

Buying a home is all about the long-term now, rather than a quick purchase on a fast turnaround. Mr Young advises you buy what suits you. ‘It must fit your needs as it is likely to be in the family for five to 10 years.’

If you buy now you can pick up a home in a smarter area that you might not have been able to afford last year. Top-end house finder Robert Bailey from Robert Bailey Property recommends going for a superior postcode: ‘Stretch yourself to get a better house at a better address, rather than look in secondary areas. Gizmos in new developments are totally overlooked now and it is a time to reflect on what you are buying,’ he says.

Property for sale in London and the countryside:

Eaton Square, London SW1 £6.45 million

A sharp looking penthouse apartment – the first to come onto the market in six years – on the exclusive north side of the square. All the bedrooms have glass doors leading onto the balconies in this recently renovated home. Ayrton Wylie 020 7730 4628 www.ayrtonwylie.com

Hatch Farm House, Chartham Hatch, Kent £765,000
Good sized edge-of-village period farmhouse with large barn/games room and other useful buildings in one-and-a-half acres. Calcutt Maclean Wood 01233 812060 www.cmwea.co.uk

Hill House, Appleshaw, Hampshire £3.5 million
Selling agent George Burnand says, ‘Last year’s properties are the houses to buy, they are generally blighted by time and often by little else.’ He is marketing a classic Queen Anne village house at the end of a mature tree-lined avenue with staff accommodation and a tennis court set in 11 acres. Strutt & Parker 020 7318 5127 www.struttandparker.com



* Country Houses for sale