UK housing market 'on its knees'

UK housing market 'on its knees'

The UK’s housing market remained subdued in February, marking the third month in a row of marginal increases. 

According to the Nationwide House Price Index out this morning (February 28), February’s annual prices were just 0.4 per cent higher than at the same time last year. 

Month on month figures even showed a 0.1 per cent fall in house prices after taking account of seasonal factors. 

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The average home is now valued at £211,304, down from £211,966 in January. When compared with February last year however, the value has increased by almost £1,000. 

Robert Gardner, Nationwide's chief economist, said: "Indicators of housing market activity, such as the number of property transactions and the number of mortgages approved for house purchase, have remained broadly stable in recent months, but survey data suggests that sentiment has softened. 

"Measures of consumer confidence weakened around the turn of the year and surveyors reported a further fall in new buyer enquiries over the same period. 

"While the number of properties coming onto the market also slowed, this doesn’t appear to have been enough to prevent a modest shift in the balance of demand and supply in favour of buyers in recent months."

According to data from the English Housing Survey, compiled by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Legal Government, 2018 saw a rise in home ownership from 62.6 per cent in 2017 to 63.5 per cent. 

Mr Gardner said this was driven by an increase in the number of people owning their home with a mortgage, which began to increase again after declining continuously since 2005. 

He said: "Supportive labour market conditions and a number of policy changes, especially in the regulatory and tax system, have improved the bargaining position of home buyers relative to investors. Government schemes, such as Help To Buy equity loan, have also helped support first time buyer numbers. 

"The biggest improvement in home ownership over the past year has been amongst those aged 35-44, helping to reverse some of the decline seen in the last few years. Nonetheless, at 57 per cent, the home ownership rate amongst this age group is still well below its 2006 peak of 73 per cent."

Jonathan Samuels, CEO of lender Octane Capital said today's data had shown in spite of the marginal increase, the UK property market "remains firmly on its knees". 

He said: "To say sentiment has softened is somewhat generous. Shattered is closer to the mark. March could be the month the property market finally succumbs to madness.

"The jobs market remains strong, inflation is below target and borrowing rates are low so seatbelts are at least buckled as we enter the turbulent months ahead.

"The home ownership rate may have improved but the relationship many people have with bricks and mortar is changing irreversibly. What’s very clear is that, with age, comes not just wisdom but outright equity in your home."