UK house price growth continues in first month of 2016

House prices in the UK increased by 2.2% in the last three months compared with the previous quarter taking the average value to £212,430.

The January index data from lender the Halifax also shows that prices were up 9.7% year on year and up 1.7% in compared with December 2015.

Martin Ellis, Halifax housing economist, pointed out that the quarterly rate of change increased following two successive months below 2% and the annual rate has been in a narrow range between 8% and 10% for nearly the whole period since the start of 2015.

‘The imbalance between supply and demand continues to exert significant upward pressure on house prices. This situation looks set to persist over the coming months. Further ahead, increasing affordability issues, as price increases continue to exceed wage growth, are likely to curb housing demand and cause price growth to ease,’ he said.

He also pointed out confidence in the housing market remains strong, according to the latest quarterly Halifax Housing Market Confidence Tracker.  Despite declining steadily since last May, house price optimism in the final quarter of 2015 continued to show that a majority of people believe that average UK property prices will be higher 12 months from now.

Price growth is largely due to a lack of supply, according to Randeesh Sandhu, chief executive officer of residential development finance provider Urban Exposure. He also pointed out that there could be an increase in activity before the new second home stamp duty tax increases in April.

He said that the lack of supply continues to be constrained by developers having a lack of access to finance as well as a shortage of key materials and a skilled workforce. ‘Far more needs to be done to boost development, particularly in London where average house prices in over half of London neighbourhoods are now £500,000 or more,’ he added.
 
Rob Weaver, director of Investments at property crowdfunding platform Property Partner, also believes that supply is the main driver in the housing markets. He also explained that while sales in central London have dropped off the outer boroughs are seeing increased activity.

‘Potential buyers are hunting for more affordable housing, attracted by regeneration in places like Thamesmead and Woolwich, and of course, Crossrail. We’re also seeing a spike in activity in the market as buy to let landlords rush to seal deals before the stamp duty 3% hike in April,’ he explained.

‘After that it is less clear as the spectre of cuts in mortgage tax relief looms next year. But wage growth is just not keeping pace with house prices, and that raises the serious question of affordability. Demand may start to drop leading to a softening of prices. An eventual interest rate rise, possibly at the end of the year, may also lead to a correction in the market,’ he added.

Jonathan Hopper, managing director of buying agents Garrington Property Finders, pointed out that the buy to let rush will push demand higher in the next couple of months but it is short supply that is affecting the underlying market.

‘Britain simply can’t build homes fast enough to keep up with demand. With demand likely to be boosted even further by the Bank of England’s admission that an interest rate rise could remain firmly off the table for the rest of the year, 2016’s strong start is unlikely to be a blip,’ he added.

Further house price growth throughout 2016 is almost inevitable, according to Mark Posniak, managing director at Dragonfly Property Finance. ‘With interest rates unlikely to move for some time, and people generally confident about their jobs and the economy, demand is also very strong. People's fear of being priced out of the market is tangible at present. This is especially the case in London and the South East,’ he said.

‘While logic suggests house price growth will ease as affordability issues increase, our relationship with the property market is nothing if not emotive. Prices rise in this way only adds to demand and so the growth continues,’ he added.
 

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