Although all bets are off as to what the housing market will be like after the Coronavirus subsides, there is now evidence that price rises were slowing well before the outbreak.
Data from the Office for National Statistics show that annual price rises in January were only 1.3 per cent - down from the 1.7 per cent increase recorded in December.
That December figure was the fastest rise in Britain in 11 months, and wa thought to be fuelled by the conclusive result of the December General Election.
But the latest information shows that already going into reverse as little as a month later.
“Over the past three years, there has been a general slowdown in UK house price growth, driven mainly by a slowdown in the south and east of England” say the ONS.
One London agent reacted with dismay to the news - Marc von Grundherr, director of Benham and Reeves, said: “The Brexit market bounce expected this year will have to wait as it gives way to a Coronavirus crippling.”
He continues: “You’d be forgiven for anticipating the worst with property values already dropping in January, particularly given the fact we know what is to come as a result of the spread of Coronavirus. It’s certain we are going to see a notable reduction in market activity.”
However, former RICS residential chair and London agency owner Jeremy Leaf takes a more measured view.
“It shows what might have been and what still could be, even though increases are a little more modest than the previous month’s surprise spike, as long as the pandemic can be brought under control relatively quickly. On the ground, viewings may have dried up but enquiries haven’t" says Leaf.
“Many, already fed-up with enforced confinement, are clearly hoping to move in the short rather than the longer term. If that is the case, we don’t expect prices to suffer too badly if the current shortage of listings continues and government assistance keeps as many in work as possible.'