The housing market in the UK is an important bellwether of the general state of the economy. With high owner-occupation rates compared to other countries, we seem to be a nation obsessed with house prices. So, here’s my take on the general state of the property market, based on recent reports and data.
Has General Uncertainty Affected the Housing Market?
I’ve written quite a lot recently about uncertainty and making financial decisions for the future. In the heat of Brexit, some seemed unwilling to make major changes. Well, the advent of the (no doubt temporary) no-exit-Brexit at the end of March, seems to have unleashed activity in the property market. According to UK Finance, who report on most major banks and lenders, there were 42,989 mortgages approved in April 2019. That’s 11.5% higher than in April ’18 and some 3,000 more than in March. It shows considerable acceleration in one month and is the highest seasonally-adjusted level for 2 years.
This growth in credit since the end of March is not restricted to mortgages. UK Finance also released data that showed an 8.8% increase in credit spending, and repayments rose in line with the spending increase.
Is It a Buyers’ Market or a Sellers’ Market Right Now?
Another interesting perspective on the housing market comes from online estate agents, Zoopla and their Cities House Price Index. One thing they consider is the gap between the original asking price of a house and the actual selling price. This helps us to determine whether it’s a buyers’ market or a sellers’ one. For the first 3 months of this year, that gap was 3.9%, compared with 3.3% same time last year.
The picture does vary by region, though. In London that gap was 5.7%; it also grew in Manchester, Nottingham and Leicester. In contrast, in Edinburgh and Glasgow, average selling prices exceeded original asking prices.
Overall, we’ve seen an upturn in activity in the housing market and more sales. That said, there’s an increasing gap between asking and selling prices. So, this means that tougher negotiations and persistently weak market perceptions make it still a buyers’ market – just.