London’s property market is in a coma

London’s housing market has ground to a halt.

After years of blockbuster growth, home prices have reversed course and are expected to drop further over the next year. The number of sales has dropped, and more homeowners are pulling properties off the market.

The dour outlook comes courtesy of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), which warned in a report on Thursday that weakness in London had caused its UK house price indicator to hit a five-year low.

A number of factors have hobbled London’s market.

The government has in recent years hiked taxes on property purchases, making it more expensive to buy luxury housing, second homes and investment properties. Doing so has scared off some wealthy investors and caused prices to slump in central London.

Britain’s decision to leave the European Union has also hurt the market, with potential buyers putting their plans on hold because of the economic uncertainty.

One property professional surveyed by RICS said that Brexit and the tax changes had “killed the liquidity of the London market.”

Related: Renting vs. Buying: What can you afford?

The Bank of England is also expected to keep slowly raising interest rates as the economy grinds forward, making mortgages even less affordable for Londoners.

The average house price in London is £486,000, according to the UK Land Registry.

That’s too high for many first-time buyers, whose finances have been hit by high inflation and small salary rises. But sellers would rather pull properties off the market than accept lower bids.

“Buyers and sellers are currently locked in a stand-off,” said Hansen Lu of Capital Economics.

RICS’ chief economist Simon Rubinsohn said that the slowdown in London “has the potential to impact the wider economy, contributing to a softer trend in household spending.”

He said the dynamic could ultimately impact the Bank of England’s thinking about future interest rate rises.

Still, analysts don’t expect house prices to collapse in London. Inflation has moderated in recent months, employment remains strong and the British economy is growing.

Lu said this should be considered “good news” for the stagnant market.

12 Months To Go: Brexit and the UK’s Defiant Housing Market

On the 29th of March 2019, the UK will leave the EU. There are several key areas of concern across every sector of the country, but what does Brexit mean for UK property, and how is the market confronting the challenges?

In less than 12 months, Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union, following a hard-fought referendum back in June 2016. The negotiations are well underway, with progress being made on key issues, such as the duration and specifics of the transition period, citizens’ rights and future trade deals.

Despite the pervading uncertainty and cooling activity, investor confidence and growth projections for the UK’s property market remain strong, supported by dwindling supply and climbing demand.

2018 is the year when decisions on Brexit must be made, and property investors prepare to adjust to a new status-quo. But is the UK’s post-Brexit future still unclear, and what does it hold for those investing in UK property?

 

Brexit and UK Property

The country has been on something akin to a rollercoaster since Prime Minister Theresa May invoked Article 50 last March, serving the official notification letter to the European Council that formally began the withdrawal process.

Following this, there have been various summits, a gamble of a general election, and the agreement of a vital transition period – which will begin after the UK’s official departure in March 2019 – all aimed at solidifying the UK’s new status in Europe.

While uncertainty is set to dissipate in the final year of negotiations before the UK exits the EU, the property market, like many other industries, has held strong since the referendum in June 2016 – defying expectations.

Despite house prices and rental growth slowing in recent months, the significant falls in property values projected in the wake of the referendum have failed to materialise.

According to data from Your Move and LSL/Acadata, annual house price growth in February 2018 remains positive at a modest 0.6%, while data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that rents increased by 1.1% annually over the same period.

But if Brexit is not behind the deceleration in growth, what is?

 

Construction Industry Brexit

Fundamentally, house price and rent growth in the UK is governed by the imbalance between the supply and demand for properties, with this current slowdown forming a natural part of the property cycle.

As housebuilding construction activity remains subdued, owing to high materials costs and a chronic labour shortage, the supply of homes in the UK continues to fall far short of demand, pushing prices up in a competitive, high demand market.

Yet, this growth has started to cool as property becomes increasingly unaffordable for many prospective buyers. With the cost of purchasing a home too high, many households are turning from the housing market and towards the more reasonable rates available in the private rented sector.

As a result, home sellers are having to be more competitive with their prices in order to attract buyers, despite estate agents registering fewer homes for sale in February, which has caused a modest drag on asking prices.

Midlands Cities Among Top 10 Buy-To-Let Property Postcodes

London commuter belt towns fall down the rankings as Northampton, Leicester and Birmingham surge

Three of the top five locations for buy-to-let property investments are in the Midlands, according to new research.

Northampton, Birmingham and Leicester were all cited as top postcodes for buy-to-let, with strong rental growth of 2.38%, 3.91% and 4.35% respectively, according to independent mortgage lender LendInvest.

Whilst the Midlands regions have been steadily rising up the rankings, the report highlights the South West region as an up-and-coming market, as strong rental growth and healthy market activity has boosted the profile of cities like Bristol, Swindow, Truro and Gloucester.

Conversely, London and the South East continue to underperform, as declining rents deters further investment in these regional markets.

Historically strong performing commuter towns like Dartford, Romford and St Albans have recent begun to slide down the LendInvest buy-to-let rankings, in some cases by as many as 58 places.

However, the report notes that demand for housing will continue to support future growth: “Political changes are increasingly underpinning this uncertainty in the market, however the need for housing around the UK prevails.

“As such, we can expect the rental market to grow, with investors prioritising yields and rental price growth as valuable metrics to consider when purchasing a property.”

Over the last 10 years, rents have grown by 16% nationally, according to figures from Rightmove.

 

Economy wobbles as factories and building sites stall – putting May interest rate hike in doubt

Economic growth slowed again in February as the construction and manufacturing industries both stalled, a pair of oil refineries closed for maintenance, and the export boost from the weak pound began to fade.

The Bank of England had already cut its first-quarter growth forecasts from 0.4pc to 0.3pc because the icy Beast from the East made families stay at home instead of hitting the shops. But now economists fear even this estimate is too high.

The new figures “look consistent with GDP growth slowing to 0.2pc in the first quarter – below the Monetary Policy Committee’s 0.3pc forecast – from 0.4pc in the fourth quarter, casting doubt over whether a May rate hike is as likely as markets currently expect”, said Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

 

“We estimate that economic growth nudged lower to 0.2pc in the first quarter of 2018,” he said.

“The main reason for the weakness was severe weather in March, which is likely to have disrupted activity in all major sectors of the economy.”

Manufacturing output fell by 0.2pc in February, the Office for National Statistics said, and January’s 0.1pc expansion was also revised down to zero.

Falling output of electrical goods, machinery, textiles and plastics hit the figures.

Growth in industrial production overall – which includes manufacturing as well as industries such as mining and quarrying, and utilities – slowed to 0.1pc for the month.

A major cause was that two of the UK’s six refineries were closed for refurbishment. However, growth was supported by February’s unusually cold weather, which boosted domestic energy consumption.

Mark Carney at the Bank of England is expected to raise interest rates to 0.75pc next month – but this weaker data could make him think again Credit: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

At the same time construction output tumbled by 1.6pc in the month, defying expectations of a 0.9pc increase. This drop may not be entirely weather related. The ONS said maintenance work led the decline, even as residential building and infrastructure construction increased.

The trade deficit increased in the three months to February, rising by £0.4bn to £6.4bn, as a dip in imports was more than offset by a larger fall in exports – which the ONS said coincided with a strengthening of the pound.

However, the overall slowdown may only be a temporary wobble, rather than a longer-term slowdown in the economy.

“While a continuation of such news may generate some nervousness in markets about whether the Bank of England will deliver another rate hike next month, it is worth pointing out that there is another full round of economic news before the Bank announces its decision,” said George Buckley at Nomura.

“We continue to expect a 25-basis point move on May 10 on the assumption of better economic news to come.”

Chief economist Lee Hopley at manufacturing industry group EEF said: “The data looks more like a temporary wobble than a turn for the worse. Whilst other indicators may have softened since the start of the year, ongoing growth in the global economy should continue to spur growth across manufacturing in the coming quarters.”

Source https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2018/04/11/economy-wobbles-factories-building-sites-stall-putting-may/

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