House price boom cools off across UK

Emma Woollacott
Housing stock
Housing stock

House prices may finally be levelling off, the latest report from Hometrack shows, after 19 months of consecutive rises.

There was no rise recorded across England and Wales as a whole, the first time since January 2013. Hometrack says this reflects the end of a period during which the recovering economy released pent-up demand and mortgage availability improved through the Help to Buy scheme.

Certainly, demand is falling. Hometrack says that while the number of listings in September fell by 0.3%, the number of new buyers registering with agents dropped by 2.6%.

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Even London sees prices cool

In London - which has seen rocketing price growth over the last few years - prices actually fell by 0.1%.

They were unchanged in Wales, East Anglia, the East Midlands, the North East, the South West and the West Midlands, but rose by 0.1% in the North West, Yorkshire and Humberside, as well as in the South East.

"While this slowdown can be attributed partly to seasonal factors – including a slight hangover from a slow August – it's clear that agents are wary about the direction of the market as a result of weaker demand and lower sales volumes," says Richard Donnell, Director of Research at Hometrack.

"Buyer uncertainty is growing in the face of a possible interest rate rise, a general election on the horizon and recent warnings of a house price bubble. The debate over economic implications for Scottish independence could well have added to the uncertainty in recent weeks.

"Played out against a backdrop of tougher mortgage affordability checks and limits on high loan to income lending, higher value postcodes of inner London are clearly being impacted."

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UK House Prices Rise More Than Expected In May: RICS
UK House Prices Rise More Than Expected In May: RICS

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Hope for buyers?

Figures from the Office for National Statistics earlier this month showed an 11.7% annual increase over the 12 months to July. More recent statistics from Halifax, though, showed prices up by just 0.1% in August.

So does this mean buyers will start to find life a little easier?

The Hometrack figures show that they're getting a slightly better deal than in the past: vendors are now averaging 95.8% of the asking price, down from 95.9% in August.

"Although the lead indicators suggest that buyers will start to gain the upper hand, there are many home owners who don't need to sell and won't bother unless it's financially beneficial to do so," says Donnell.

"The net result is a likely drop-off in activity in the coming months. As the build up to the election in 2015 draws imminent and political parties use the conference season to delineate their views, we anticipate an impact on market activity."

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