Average price tag on a home ‘now just £40 below all-time high’

The average price tag on a home is on the brink of reaching a new record high and now sits just £40 below its previous peak, according to a property website.

Across Britain, the average asking price stood at £309,399 in February – up by 0.8%, or £2,589 month on month, Rightmove said.

This means typical asking prices are just £40 below a previous record high of £309,439 reached in June 2018.

Rightmove said there has been a boom in buyer demand, with traffic to its website hitting a new record of more than 152 million visits in January.

Other property websites have also recently reported surges in activity at the start of 2020.

Rightmove’s report said that as market momentum continues to build ahead of the spring moving season, a series of new price records is likely in the coming months.

Upwards price pressure is being driven by a post-general election release of pent-up housing demand, and, while there is a long-awaited and welcome recovery in the number of new sellers coming to market, this is being outstripped by a surge in demand from buyers, the report said.

Rightmove director Miles Shipside said: “There is a boom in buyer activity outstripping the rise in the number of new sellers, which we expect to lead to a series of new price records starting next month.

“The average price of newly-marketed property is just £40 below its all-time high from June 2018, with the typically busy spring market still to come.

“This means that spring buyers are likely to be faced with the highest average asking prices ever seen in Britain.

“Buyers who had been hesitating and waiting for the greater political certainty following the election outcome may be paying a higher price, but they can now jump into the spring market with renewed confidence.

“After three and-a-half years of Brexit uncertainty, dither and delay, many now seem to have the 2020 vision that this is the year to satisfy their pent-up housing needs.”

Nationally, new seller numbers are failing to keep pace with the jump in sales activity, although they are finally starting to increase and are up by 2.1% compared with a year ago.

It is the first time that Rightmove has seen a year-on-year rise in new supply for 13 months.

Rightmove house price index
Rightmove shows asking price changes across Britain (Rightmove/PA)

Mr Shipside continued: “It’s the first time for over a year that we have seen any sign of a return of seller confidence, albeit lagging behind the surge in numbers of early-bird buyers.

“Owners coming to market this spring face the best selling prospects for several years, with good demand for the right properties at the right prices.

“However, sellers should be careful not to get carried away with their pricing, as this is still a price-sensitive market with stretched buyer affordability.

“Those who over-price risk missing out on the window of increased activity that could run at least until we approach the next Brexit deadline at the end of the year.

“Now could be an excellent time to get on the market and sell, seizing the opportunity of achieving a quick sale at a decent price.”

Some lenders have recently been chopping their mortgage rates to attract those buying and re-mortgaging.

For example, HSBC said last week that it has reduced fixed rates across many of its mortgages.

Rightmove also quoted the views of estate agents.

Lucian Cook, head of Savills residential research, said: “Increased confidence is translating into increased activity, both in the prime market and across the wider market as a whole.

“It is clear that the market remains largely dictated by sentiment. Our own agents are reporting that the vast majority of buyers remain unwilling to increase their budgets.

“Accordingly, our advice remains that sellers need to remain pragmatic on price, particularly given some of the uncertainty around an impending Budget.”

Edward Heaton, founder and managing partner of Heaton & Partners, said: “The hype of a ‘Boris bounce’ – which was building for some time – immediately reinvigorated many of our clients’ purchasing plans.”

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