Full impact of lockdown on housing market revealed in Nationwide's latest HPI

Better late than never? Some may be forgiven for not wanting to see the latest figures released by Nationwide this morning despite them being four days late as they make for grim reading.

Related topics:  Property
Property Reporter
2nd June 2020
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Nationwide reports that house price growth slowed sharply to 1.8% as the impact of the pandemic begins to filter through. This, according to Robert Gardner, Nationwide's Chief Economist, "is the largest monthly fall since February 2009".

After taking account of seasonal factors, prices saw month-on-month fall of 1.7%.

Robert Gardner, comments: “In the opening months of 2020, before the pandemic struck the UK, the housing market had been steadily gathering momentum. Activity levels and price growth were edging up thanks to continued robust labour market conditions, low borrowing costs and a more stable political backdrop following the general election.

“But housing market activity has slowed sharply as a result of the measures implemented to control the spread of the virus. Indeed, data from HMRC showed that residential property transactions were down 53% in April compared with the same month in 2019.

“Mortgage activity has also declined sharply. Nevertheless, our ability to generate the house price index has not been impacted to date, as sample sizes have remained sufficiently large (and representative) to generate robust results.

“Low transaction levels may still make gauging price trends difficult in the coming months – especially for regional indices, which by their nature have lower sample sizes.

Pandemic may impact through several channels

“Behavioural changes and social distancing are likely to impact the flow of housing transactions for some time. Our recent market research survey suggested that 12% of the population had put off moving as a result of the lockdown. Most viewed the current situation as a temporary pause in the market, with would-be buyers now planning to wait six months on average before looking to enter the market.

“Peoples’ housing preferences may also be impacted. Indeed, 15% of people surveyed said they were considering moving as a result of life in lockdown, with a third (34%) stating they think differently about their home as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, especially the importance of a garden and the need for more indoor space.

“Moreover, 22% of people said they had changed their mind as to what constituted the most important aspects of a home and are considering improving their home as a result of Covid-19

Where next for the housing market?

“The medium-term outlook for the housing market remains highly uncertain, where much will depend on the performance of the wider economy

“We have already seen a sharp economic contraction as a result of the necessary measures adopted to suppress the spread of the virus. Indeed, the 5.9% decline in UK economic activity recorded in March was only a little less than the decline recorded over the entire financial crisis

“However, the raft of policies adopted to support the economy, including to protect businesses and jobs, to support peoples’ incomes and keep borrowing costs down, should set the stage for a rebound once the shock passes, and help limit long-term damage to the economy.

“These same measures should also help ensure the impact on the housing market will ultimately be less than would normally be associated with an economic shock of this magnitude.”

Anna Clare Harper, author of Strategic Property Investing and co-founder of property fund Anglo Residential, says: "Nationwide’s data is beginning to reflect the impact of lockdown measures on housing market practicalities. It highlights how lockdown is influencing housing priorities, with people wanting a garden, more indoor space and the right community. In the investment space, everyone we speak to is reprioritising in favour of properties that offer stability and income."

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