Our summer review considered the potential impact of rising inflation and a softening market. We did not consider the possibility of an ideological new Prime Minister in a hurry to push through drastic reform for economic growth leaving a potential massive black hole in UK finances and destabilising the UK economy along with our credibility.
A combination of interest rate rises leading to mortgage rate increases, depreciation of the pound, and cash flow crises for UK pension funds sent the economy into a tailspin. 45 days after taking office the new PM resigned.
What impact have we seen to the housing market thanks to this ‘fly-be-the-seat-of-our-pants’ governance? – I caveat this comment by stating that the autumn statement has yet to be announced.
The biggest impact has been the swift increase in mortgage rates. Where offers around 1.2% were possible in 2021 we question whether we will ever see them at this level again. Mortgage rates shot to over 6% following the unprecedented increase in interest rates. They have now fallen and despite anticipated further interest rate rises they are likely to stabilise offering anything between 3.5% to 5.5% dependent on the Loan-to-Value and the type and length of mortgage.
It does offer a degree of comfort to see stability return to the economy due to fiscal prudence which has filtered into the markets and mortgage lenders. However, what is this going to do to house prices?
We have seen sustained and unprecedented growth over the last two years driven by the desire or need to move, the shortage of stock, and the availability of cheap financing. This spring we started to see anticipated inflation. This autumn we have felt that we are staring down a barrel with soaring inflation, energy price rises, interest rate rises, and a falling pound.
House prices have started to take a knock as the pendulum begins to swing from the sellers’ market of spring 2020 to spring 2022. However, I would argue that we have not yet crossed into the realm of a buyer’s market.
This summer we suggested that there may be a drop of 5-10% in average prices which is still a realistic figure, but this could be considered a correction to the possibly over-inflated price increases that we saw over the last two years. If the value of your property has increased by 20% and has now dropped by 5% have you lost money? One should always consider that a loss is only a loss when it is realised. Other than that it is simply an intangible pot sitting beneath that ever moving rainbow.
Predictions are for the market to fall considerably more – depending on which newspaper you read. Remember that bad news sells better than good news! If you look back at house price crashes of 1970s, 1990s, and 2000s then we still struggle to find anything more than 15-20% which was then followed by unprecedented growth as the economy rebound.
So why is it not yet a buyer’s market?
Stock! There are simply not the volume of properties coming to market. Ok so it is only November and this may change next spring but in my opinion this is a good time for an idealist PM to wreck the economy. At least we have 4 months for sense to return and credibility and stability be the watchword for a conservative government.
Mortgage rates – while around 50% of the country have and need mortgages to buy property, they are not all sitting on fixed rates that end in 2023. We will see discomfort in terms of the cost of living, and there will be many people making very difficult decisions but not everybody is obliged to re-mortgage in spring 2023.
Inflation – whether we look at wages, cost of living, RPI, CPI, inflation is affecting all of us and wage inflation is not winning this race. What this means is that buyers are not rushing out to buy simply because every tabloid tells us house prices are coming down.
In summary, everything has taken a knock and it can feel like we are stumbling into a bog. The scariest part of a bog is not knowing how deep it is. It is starting to feel that we have found firm ground beneath us and while we are still trying to drag our way out of the mess, at least we have some stability beneath us.
We may see 10% come off our property in 2023 but if we are selling and buying in the same cycle then does this have a real impact? If forecasts are right then the markets may see a correction round the corner before they begin to pick up again but given the evidence of the last 2.5 years surely we should all adopt the mantra of Winston and KBO!