National house price growth slows but market remains active

Warren Lewis -
8th November 2017
house stats

According to Strutt & Parker's residential report for Q3 2017, national house price growth has slowed, but continues to show a positive trend.

UK house prices grew 2.3% in the year to Q3 2017, and the national picture has been driven by strong growth outside of London, with the East Midlands, South West and West Midlands all experiencing over 4.5% growth. National house prices are now 13.9% above the 2017 peak.

Guy Robinson, Head of Residential Agency at Strutt & Parker, said: “Despite the slowdown in UK house price growth, the residential market remains active, and Strutt & Parker has recorded an 8.3% annual increase in the number of transactions concluded across the country. Over the past quarter we have seen the impact of political and economic uncertainty on house prices spread from prime central London out to the residential market around the M25, although sensible pricing and other adjustments by all parties can help the market in the commuter belt from becoming stagnant.

The most valuable players in the UK property market this quarter have been in the South West and the Midlands, which are experiencing growth above the national average. These regions benefit from popular cities and market towns with good housing stock and infrastructure, and there is a healthy number of buyers stepping in to take advantage of good schools and affordability.”

London, which has traditionally experienced the strongest growth rates in the UK, has been the worst performing region in 2017, with a negative growth rate of -0.6% (NHPI). Prime central London (PCL) prices have declined for the third consecutive quarter of 2017 with quarterly decrease of 1.0%, following a 1.2% decrease in Q2. This means prices have fallen around 3% so far in 2017 and are down by 5% compared to the same time a year ago. However, it is worth noting that London house prices are still 54.6% above the 2007 peak (NHPI).

Previously it was believed much of the downward pressure on PCL house prices due to Brexit had already been experienced. However, prices in the high value brackets (£2m-£5m and £5m+ brackets) have continued to fall and transaction levels, which at one point appeared to be picking up, have now fallen again. Substantial economic and political uncertainty remains and its does not look likely that will resolve any time soon.

Charlie Willis, Head of London Residential Agency at Strutt & Parker, said: “Prime central London tends to be ahead of the curve in reacting to the political and economic mood, and it experienced a marked slowdown a year and a half ago. Seller expectations are realigning in most situations, with appropriate asking price adjustments. As we head into 2018, we envisage seeing a more active market with an increase in the number of buyers and sellers alike.

Affordability and value are still important even when the buyer profile in prime central London often consists of cash rich buyers. It is a misconception that cash buyers in prime central London are shielded against changes in interest rates and the wider economy. Many cash buyers still need some form of finance, usually having significant other investments, and will be looking to lenders to finance refurbishment and other improvement works by taking loans out against their property investments.”

Strutt & Parker, alongside its economic forecasters Volterra, is forecasting 0.0% growth in PCL in 2018 as a best case scenario (with downside risk at -5.0%) and 2.5% growth for 2018 across the UK.

Vanessa Hale from the Research division at Strutt & Parker, said: “In the face of far from optimum conditions, it is forecast that the UK economy will grow by 1.6% over the whole of 2017, while forecasts for 2018 and 2019 have been downgraded to 1.2% and 1.4% respectively. While political and economic conditions remain uncertain, we have seen slower than expected house price growth. With the current Brexit negotiations underway, we continue to maintain that from 2019 onwards it is extremely difficult to forecast the housing market with any certainly, but we would expect some bounce back and a return to growth once more political stability has returned.”

Interest rates rise

On 1 November the Bank of England finally increased the official bank rate – from 0.25% to 0.5% – the first interest rate rise in over ten years. The rate remains very low by historic standards, but it will increase mortgage rates for some households, as well as increasing savings rates for others. Financial markets are indicating two more interest rate increases over the next 3 years, taking the official rate to 1%.

Stephanie McMahon, Head of Research at Strutt & Parker, said: “Although expected by many this rise in interest rates will have an impact on mortgages. As a reversal on the August 2016 cut it could be argued that the shift may not be significant, it will be compounded however, by a further year of limited wage growth combined with inflation. As a consequence, greater pressure is being put on household discretionary income.”

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