Coronavirus: UK house prices knocked off all-time high

Terraced houses and rooftops in Everton, Liverpool, Merseyside.
Terraced houses and rooftops in Everton in Liverpool, Merseyside, England.

Rightmove data suggests UK property prices have been knocked off their all-time highs by the coronavirus crisis, with the lockdown triggering a near-collapse in the housing market.

But the company (RMV.L) said on Monday 20 April there were not enough properties coming to market to provide “meaningful” new seller asking prices in April.

Estate agents have issued similar warnings about the reliability and relevance of property market data in recent weeks, and the collapse in activity has forced many to furlough staff.

“You do not have a functioning market when buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell,” wrote analysts in Rightmove’s monthly house price index report.

The property listing firm still published the latest figures for the small number of properties being put up for sale this month, however. The data shows prices dipping below last month’s all-time high, which had reflected a boom in activity seen since Boris Johnson’s election victory in December.

The average home newly advertised on Rightmove’s site was on sale for just under £312,000 ($390,146) in April. This marked a 0.2% drop on March, but a 2.1% jump on the previous April.

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Rightmove director and housing market analyst Miles Shipside said he did not expect a price crash, however.

“During this slow-motion period we do not expect significant price falls, as home sellers will not be prepared to cut their prices while it is still not clear how the general public, businesses, financial markets, and the government are going to handle the transition to whatever turns out to be the new normal,” he said.

There are signs that some parts of the market are holding up more than might be expected. Rightmove said visits to its site had slumped 40% after the lockdown was announced last month, but had “started to recover” in the past week.

Meanwhile the number of property transactions falling through is no higher than usual, with buyers, sellers, conveyancers and banks trying hard to keep deals alive.

The total available stock for sale on Rightmove is also down just 2.6% since the lockdown began. New seller numbers have dropped dramatically, but many sellers already advertising via the property portal have not withdrawn homes from sale.

“The latest Rightmove survey confirms what we have been seeing on the ground – our offices may be closed but the market is anything but quiet,” said Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent. “Buyers and sellers are pausing, not cancelling, sales or listings, while continuing to access websites readying themselves for when lockdown restrictions are eased.”

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