Flat outlook for the property market in 2019 should not be a surprise.

It really should not be a surprise that the outlook for the residential property market in the UK for 2019 is a bit flat as indicated by various figures and forecasts being published.   It is Brexit year and no one could have predicted a brilliant rise in the economy or the political outlook so people are going to be nervous about moving house unless they have to.   But I was a little bit surprised by the forecast from Rightmove that nationally, average asking prices in the UK are unlikely to rise at all in 2019, although that statement needs to be tempered by the points that the property portal does expect the north of the country to see growth.   It is a topsy turvey outlook, with prices and sales in the South, particularly London, still negative and prices in the North, particularly cities such as Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds seeing record growth.   One reason is that markets in these cities have not grown as much since the economic crisis and therefore as not enough new homes are being built, the demand is there and pushing prices up.   Rightmove also points out that overall the housing market is sound and predicts that asking prices could rise by between 2% and 4% in some Northern regions while the London commuter belt regions could see asking prices fall by around 2% and in Greater London the market is predicted to slow from its current annual rate of decrease from -2.4% to an average fall of -1%.   The latest report from Knight Frank shows that property prices in London’s prime property markets are continuing to fall but the number of new buyers registering in the market is rising, suggesting that there is still interest there.   It is important to keep an eye on the prime market as movements there can reflect on the wider property market. Knight Frank reports prices are down by 4% in the central London market year on year and down by 4.8% in the outer London market.   Meanwhile, Halifax’s index shows that house prices fell by 1.4% in November and at an average of £224,578 are just 0.3% above where they were a year ago. But it also points out that this is within the 0% to 3% rate forecast a year ago, with Brexit, no doubt having been taken into account. However, it is the lowest rate of annual growth in six years.   Other forecast reports also point to the market continuing to be slower. Chestertons, for example, says it is due to Brexit uncertainty and tax changes affecting buyers. But the outlook is encouraging, it adds, as there has been a noticeable increase in buyer interest with registrations and viewings both up on last year.   Looking back at 2018, it points out that London has suffered more than the rest of the county in the wake of tax increases while Brexit has had a greater impact due to the number of international buyers traditionally in the market.   In Brexit year, expect not much movement, although the market could dip considerably in the New Year if a No Deal looks likely. There are still several months to go until B-Day. But what the market, and the country as a whole does not want is either another referendum or a decision not to leave after all.   Both scenarios would be damaging to the economy, there would likely be another general elections so steadily forwards is a better outlook so that the markets can pick up in the second half of the year.