Average UK home changes hands every 23 years, new research shows

The average home in the UK changes hands every 23 years and while this may seem not very often it is almost three times longer than in the 1980s, new research shows.

The low housing turnover is driven by people buying their first homes later, a larger private rented sector and the baby boomer ‘hoarding effect’, according to the annual report from the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA).

The report, which examines trends in the mortgage and housing markets in order to assess the strength of the post-recession recovery, also shows that annual turnover of the private housing stock fell from over 12% to 4.5% over the last three decades. As a result, IMLA’s analysis indicates the average home currently changes hands once every 23 years compared with every eight years during the 1980s.

The IMLA report argues that low housing turnover is driven by a combination of people buying their first homes later; by a larger private rented sector where turnover is lower; and by the baby boomer ‘hoarding effect’ where middle aged home owners are staying put, tying up a large part of the housing stock. These factors are likely to keep turnover down for the foreseeable future, potentially limiting mortgage lending and restricting access to existing properties.

IMLA’s analysis also shows the estimated contribution of mortgage finance to the total value of UK housing transactions hit a new all-time low of 41.7% last year. It means just £4.17 of every £10 spent on house purchases in 2014 was funded by mortgages while cash or equity made up £5.83 or 58.3%.

Despite forecasting a slight increase in gross mortgage lending over the next two years, the IMLA expects the estimated contribution of cash, including deposits and cash purchases, to housing transactions will exceed 60% for the first time on record by 2016.

‘These figures paint a picture of a housing market where turnover has drastically slowed in the last thirty years. Quite simply, in the absence of a sustained rise in housebuilding and improved affordability and turnover, the fact that properties are coming onto the market less frequently severely limits the scope for would-be first time buyers to graduate to owning their own homes,’ said Peter Williams, IMLA executive director.

‘Inertia in the property market spells danger for future owner-occupation levels, and the growing influence of cash and equity is sowing the seeds of a permanent social divide. Having said that, we will see some continued growth in mortgage lending and as the market stabilises and wages rise, we may also start to see affordability improving,’ he added.
The report also assesses how the mortgage market recovery has been tempered in the last year by worsened housing affordability and tighter lending restrictions since April’s implementation of the Mortgage Market Review (MMR) and October’s macro-prudential changes prompted by the Financial Policy Committee (FPC).

While gross mortgage lending was running 36% up year on year in January 2014, it was down 2% by December and the market softened further in January 2015, falling 8% annually.

The IMLA forecasts offer a cautious expectation of growth in 2015, with strong economic fundamentals, including low inflation, rising incomes and continued low interest rates, balancing these negative influences and supporting a 3% annual rise in gross lending to £210 billion.

The IMLA’s analysis also shows how brokers, building societies and specialist lenders have benefited most under MMR. The end of non-advised sales has led lenders to source more business from brokers, and between the first quarter of 2014 immediately before MMR implementation and the fourth quarter of 2014 the number of consumers using intermediaries rose by 20% while those going direct to lenders fell 6%.
Specialist lenders and building societies are also enjoying a growing share of gross mortgage lending at the expense of banks. Ongoing demand from ‘niche’ borrowers is providing these types of lenders with opportunities to grow, partly because the self-employed and other non-standard customers in the post-MMR world fit less well into the automated loan underwriting systems favoured by some larger lenders.

‘A year ago we took the view that the mortgage market was leaning heavily on temporary support measures while being subject to permanent regulatory changes. The aim of dampening the credit cycle is laudable, but there is a danger that regulation could have an asymmetric effect in the future, curtailing the upswings while providing little support in the down swings,’ Williams explained.
‘The introduction of the MMR and first use of macro-prudential tools cannot be held entirely responsible for the slowdown over the last year, but we may be getting the first taste of how the new regulatory regime can engineer a more subdued market even with the policy prop of ultra low interest rates,’ he pointed out.
‘Access to advice and products from a broad spectrum of lenders are increasingly vital to borrowers in today’s mortgage market. With more prime borrowers falling into non-standard categories, choice is vital so as not to frustrate legitimate applications for mortgage credit,’ he concluded.