Average house prices up 15% on March last year – Nationwide
According to Nationwide’s house price index, it marks a return to double digit growth, which was last seen in September and is slightly up from 9.9% growth in October.
Average house prices in the UK grew by 0.9% between October and November, coming to £252,687.
It is the second consecutive month that house prices have breached £250,000 and is around £33,000 more than average house prices in March last year when the pandemic started.
Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, said there had been some signs of cooling in the housing market, pointing to housing transactions in October falling 30% year-on-year. However, he said this was “almost inevitable” due to the end of the stamp duty holiday.
He said: “Indeed, activity has been extremely buoyant in 2021. The number of housing transactions so far this year has already exceeded the number recorded in 2020 with two months still to go and is actually tracking close to the number seen at the same stage in 2007, before the global financial crisis struck.”
He added that underlying activity was “holding up well” and the number of mortgages approved in October was above 2019 monthly average. Gardner also said labour market conditions remained robust, despite the furlough scheme ending.
Gardner said: “If this is maintained, housing market conditions may remain fairly buoyant in the coming months, especially since the market has momentum and there is scope for ongoing shifts in housing preferences, as a result of the pandemic, to continue to support activity.”
However, he said there were some signs that activity may slow, such as the Omicron variant’s impact on the wide economy, lower consumer confidence due to increased cost of living, rising inflation and rising interest rates.
Housing market activity expected to remain strong but normalise
Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said few would have predicted at the start of the pandemic that house prices would be 15% higher than they were then.
He said the stamp duty holiday, low interest rates, lack of stock and strong desire to move created the “perfect storm” and pushed up property prices.
Harris added: “The intensity seen in the housing market earlier in the year has thankfully eased, as it was not sustainable. But while the froth has gone, there is still plenty of activity as this will be the busiest year for the housing market since 2007 in terms of number of transactions.”
He added that noise around interest rate rises would “get louder” heading into the new year but for now mortgage pricing was a “mixed bag” as sub-80% loan to value (LTV) deals were rising, whilst higher LTV deals were falling.
Tomer Aboody, director of property lender MT Finance, added that double digit house price growth in November showed the strength of the market over the past year, and whilst transaction levels were cooling, they were still high and nearly hitting the peak of 2007.
He added: “The future is slightly uncertain with the ever-changing global picture thanks to Covid and the possibility of interest rate rises, which will slow down growth. But we are still experiencing a low interest environment which makes purchasers more bullish, confident and keen to buy.”
Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, added that on the ground activity was returning to levels prevailing just before the pandemic or a little bit above.
He added: “These figures confirm the stamp duty holiday prompted many to bring forward buying decisions but there are plenty of others who are clearly still determined to take advantage of low mortgage rates and less frenzied conditions.
“Our recent increase in market appraisals encourages us to expect more ‘normal’ trading in early 2022 and better balance between supply and continuing demand with price growth inevitably slowing, despite concerns about interest rates and Omicron.”
Anna Clare Harper, chief executive of property consultancy SPI Capital, said the stamp duty holiday was a “catalyst” but “not the cause” of recent house price growth. She pointed factors such as severe shortage of quality housing alongside the wide availability of cheap finance meant demand exceeded supply and pushed up house prices.
She said it was likely the pace of growth will now slow, especially in the winter months. However, as interest rates remain low growth will continue as holding on to a property is cheap and lender competition means low-cost fixed rate mortgages are available.
Harper added: “Perhaps the biggest problem the housing market faces going forward is the shortage of available stock, which means that prices are likely to remain strong and continue to grow, although that growth may slow.”