More downbeat house price figures have prompted one leading estate agent to admit that the 2019 market had not taken off as much as the industry would have hoped.
The Nationwide reports average house prices rose 0.4 per cent year on year in February compared to January’s 0.1 per cent - an improvement but by less than many expected. Worse still, prices actually fell 0.1 per cent month on month, with the average price dipping to £211,304.
“After almost grinding to a complete halt in January, annual house price growth remained subdued in February” according to Nationwide’s chief economist Robert Gardner.
“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.”
Gardner says despite some growth in the supply of properties coming to market, momentum is firmly on the side of buyers after consumer confidence weakened in the New Year.
This led to Jeremy Leaf - former RICS residential chairman and himself an estate agent in north London - to conclude: ‘The 2019 housing market clearly hasn’t quite taken off in the way many hoped or expected. Although activity is better for some price brackets and property types, buyers and sellers are caught in a dilemma.”
Leaf asks: “Are concerns over Brexit outweighing positive improvements in affordability and employment, combined with continuing low borrowing costs? The result is inaction for many, other than first-time buyer numbers which remain one good news story as they profit from reduced landlord competition for smaller, lower-priced properties, which will certainly benefit the whole market.”
Kevin Roberts, the director of the Legal & General Mortgage Club, says the upside interpretation is that slower house price growth combined with competitive mortgage rates spells good news for purchasers, especially first timers who now make up the majority of home purchases bought with a mortgage.
“With their numbers at a 12-year high, government initiatives such as Help to Buy and Shared Ownership are helping those who may otherwise be unable to step onto the property ladder” he suggests.
And Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, says: “The numbers of people owning a home with a mortgage is on the rise as lenders remain keen to lend and rates are extremely competitive. Several lenders continue to trim rates in an effort to encourage more business, while innovative tweaks here and there are increasing as an alternative to offering the cheapest rate in the market.”