Christmas slowdown hits housing market early

Christmas slowdown hits housing market early

House price growth has slowed to its lowest rate in six years, as industry commentators predicted the Christmas slowdown in the market had started early amidst Brexit uncertainty.

Halifax published its monthly house price index today (December 7), showing annual growth had dropped from 1.5 per cent in October to 0.3 per cent in November - the lowest rate since 2012.

On a monthly basis house prices fell again, by 1.4 per cent, between October and November, making this the third consecutive month of falling prices.

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Halifax reported the average house price now sits at £224,578, the lowest figure since April this year.

Russell Galley, managing director at Halifax, said while annual growth had remained at its lowest in six years, it remained within the forecast range of 0 per cent to 3 per cent for 2018.

He said: "High employment, wage growth and historically low mortgage rates continue to make home ownership more affordable for many, though the need to raise a significant deposit still acts as something of a restraint on the market.

"This is largely offset by relatively limited supply of new and existing properties for sale, which continues to sustain house prices nationally."

Mike Scott, chief property analyst at Yopa, said the index suggested the usual Christmas slowdown in the housing market had started early this year, as people were waiting for the outcome of the current political turmoil before making long-term commitments.

He said: "However, the economic fundamentals of low unemployment, low interest rates, growing wages and limited supply are all positive for house prices, and we therefore expect the market to pick up again in the new year."

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said despite uncertainty around Brexit, the market had remained "remarkably consistent" with interest rates remaining fairly flat.

Mr Harris said he expected this trend to continue into the next year.

He said: "Lenders remain incredibly keen to lend and that is a consistent message we are getting from all of them - they want to do more.

"Some are doing this by topping the 'best buy' tables with some very competitive rates, such as five-year fixes from less than 2 per cent."

But not all can compete on rate, depending on how they are funded, Mr Harris said.

He added: "Others are looking at increased innovation, such as taking one year’s accounts for self-employed borrowers, tweaking loan-to-values or becoming more competitive when it comes to lending at 95 per cent loan-to-value - this is all good news for borrowers." 

Research published today showed brokers were increasingly searching for self-employed criteria for clients with only one year's worth of accounts.