Halifax  

Annual house prices stall

Annual house prices stall

The UK’s annual house price growth has stalled as prices moved a mere 0.8 per cent in the year.

According to Halifax's latest house price index, out this morning (February 7), prices in the three months to January were 0.8 per cent higher than in the same three months a year earlier, with the average house price being £223,691.

This meant growth had slowed from the 1.3 per cent annual growth rate recorded in December.

House prices in the November to January quarter were down 0.6 per cent on the preceding quarter.

And between December and January prices decreased 2.9 per cent, following their 2.5 per cent rise in December

Russell Galley, managing director at Halifax, said: "Attention will no doubt be drawn towards the monthly fall of -2.9 per cent from December to January, the second time in three years that we have seen a drop as a new year starts.

"However, the bigger picture is actually that house prices have seen next to no movement over the last year, with annual growth of just 0.8 per cent.

"This could either be viewed as a story of resilience, as prices have held up well in the face of significant economic uncertainty, or as a continuation of the slow growth we’ve witnessed over recent years."

Persistent uncertainty around Brexit has caused many potential homebuyers to hold off buying in recent months, which affected prices.

And Bank of England governor Mark Carney last year warned a no-deal Brexit could see house prices drop sharply, instilling further uncertainty.

But Mr Galley said there was more to house prices than just political uncertainty, as supply in the market was still not meeting demand.

He said: "There’s no doubt that the next year will be important for the housing market with much of the immediate focus on what impact Brexit may have.

"However, more fundamentally it is key underlying factors of supply and demand that will ultimately shape the market."

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: "Flat growth is probably the best we can hope for given the current tricky political situation we find ourselves in.

"Brexit has caused a slowdown in purchase activity as would-be buyers sit on their hands, waiting for the outcome before committing to something as major as buying a new home.

"Fewer transactions has meant less business for lenders, yet they remain keen to lend.

"They run big operations and need their staff to be busy, so have two options - change their risk profile or mortgage pricing. The latter is easier, which is why many lenders have reduced their mortgage rates, and is great news for borrowers who are ready to make a move."

aamina.zafar@ft.com