Average UK house price at new record high of £227,826, says Nationwide

UK house prices hit a new record high of £227,826 on average in October after annual growth in property values reached its fastest rate since 2015.

House prices increased by 5.8% annually in October, marking the fastest year-on-year growth rate since January 2015, Nationwide Building Society said.

Prices increased by 0.8% month on month.

There have been signs that many buyers are currently looking to beat the stamp duty holiday deadline, which expires on March 31 2021.

Activity has also been boosted by buyers searching for homes with more space during the coronavirus crisis – and Bank of England figures released this week showed home-buyer mortgage approval numbers climbed to a 13-year high in September.

But concerns have been raised that potential buyers may simply pull out of transactions in early 2021 if it looks like they will not meet the stamp duty deadline.

NAEA (National Association of Estate Agents) Propertymark and others have been calling for action to stop a cliff-edge situation next year, which they argue could be done through an extension of the deadline and a smoothing of the end of the holiday.

Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, said: “The outlook remains highly uncertain and will depend heavily on how the pandemic and the measures to contain it evolve, as well as the efficacy of policy measures implemented to limit the damage to the wider economy.

“Behavioural shifts as a result of Covid-19 may provide support for housing market activity, while the stamp duty holiday will continue to provide a near-term boost by bringing purchases forward.

“However, activity is likely to slow in the coming quarters, perhaps sharply, if the labour market weakens as most analysts expect, especially once the stamp duty holiday expires at the end of March.”

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: “The stamp duty holiday has clearly stimulated the market, combined with the impact of Covid and the desire for people to move somewhere with more outside space.

“The end of the stamp duty deadline is a concern, and needs looking at by the Government, although it is focusing buyers’ minds on getting deals done in the short term.

“The problem borrowers face is lenders’ service levels, with some struggling with the rise in demand. Price and criteria are key when choosing a mortgage, but borrowers must also consider how long a lender is going to take.”

Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent and a former chairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), said: “The dynamic of the housing market has changed over the past few weeks since pandemic restrictions have tightened.

“On the ground, we’re seeing fewer viewings, offers and longer transition times as lenders and conveyancers struggle with the backlog.

“However, we haven’t yet experienced widespread price re-negotiation or withdrawals from previously-agreed deals. That feverish buying and selling of late summer has been replaced by activity at a pace we might have otherwise expected at this time of year.”

Lucy Pendleton, from estate agent James Pendleton, said: “The only slight change to the picture over the past couple of months is the way demand for outside space and gardens has softened.

“This always happens as we hit autumn, as the inclement weather adjusts buyers’ natural focus away from the stage for summer parties and barbecues to cosy interiors.

“The pandemic and subsequent lockdown hasn’t been enough to end this trend. However, it does make it easier for agents to sell flats and maisonettes with little or no outside space. It is these homes that are much harder to shift while the sun is shining and people are spending a lot of their free time outside.”