Despite a slight drop in demand in recent weeks, the traditional summer lull looks unlikely this year as housing market activity continues to move at pace, according to Nicky Stevenson, MD of Fine & Country UK.
Stevenson refers to several factors, including heightened consumer confidence, low mortgage rates, an increase in the availability of high loan-to-value mortgage products and a continued search for space, as reasons why she expects to see greater activity levels among first-time buyers and home movers alike.
Stevenson commented: “The first half of this year has proved the busiest ever recorded in the housing market with over 880,000 properties changing hands. Nearly 200,000 sales took place in June prior to the stamp duty deadline, over twice the June average from 2011 through to 2019, and the highest monthly total ever recorded. Meanwhile, the Bank of England reported that the value of mortgage lending hit a record £43.8 billion.
“The market has drawn breath in recent weeks, new mortgage approvals fell 6% in June, while buyer demand dipped 7% in the four weeks since June 28th. However, with over 81,000 mortgages approved in June, over 20% higher than the longer-term June average, and agents reporting buyer enquiries remain steady, the market remains buoyant.”
Stevenson adds that with the success of the vaccine rollout, the reopening of selective travel corridors and the removal of the final Covid-19 restrictions, it is unsurprising consumer confidence is on an upward trajectory.
She continued “In July, UK consumer confidence moved ahead of its pre-pandemic level, with a dramatic seven-point jump in the major purchase index of those agreeing that now is the ‘right time to buy’.
“At plus ten, PwC report consumer confidence is at its highest level since its survey began back in 2008. Although inflation has breached the government’s 2% target, there is little suggestion that interest rates will rise soon; mortgage rates remain close to their all-time low and affordability is on par with longer term averages.
“The increased availability in recent months of high loan-to-value mortgage products, thanks to the government-backed guarantee, provides support for both those looking to upsize and make lifestyle changes, and those looking to purchase their first home. Zoopla reports lending to first-time buyers has risen twenty five per cent year-on-year.”
Stevenson, like many agents, expects low property stock levels to place upward pressure on property prices.
She added: “The latest monthly index produced by Nationwide reports that the average price of a property in the UK rose by 10.5% in the year to July. With lifestyle changes and the search for space still fueling many buying decisions, the supply/demand imbalance has been most acute for larger homes with four or more bedrooms, which has led to these properties witnessing the strongest levels of price growth.
“Rightmove reported a 39% surge in 4+ bedroom sales versus a 15% fall in stock coming to the market in the first half of 2021, compared to 2019. In the prime market, average prices have risen by 11%. Double-digit price growth is evident across all prime market regions of the UK except London. Price growth is currently strongest in the sought-after South West and North West.”
Looking at the months ahead, Stevenson says that housing market activity is expected to remain buoyant over the summer months and into September, given the incentive for purchases to be completed to avoid additional tax. “However,” she adds, “although the IMF has upgraded its forecast for UK economic growth to 7% for 2021, up from 5.3% in April, the direction of the market in the final quarter of the year may well depend on the impact of the removal of government support packages on the labour market and consequently household incomes. Price growth may edge downwards but looks set to remain firmly in positive territory.”