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Hope springs for house price prospects

  • 11/04/2013
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Hope springs for house price prospects
Optimism about house price growth ticked sharply upwards in Q1, according to the latest quarterly Halifax Housing Market Confidence tracker.

The survey, carried out at the end of March coinciding with the Budget, revealed that 45% of people now think property values will rise over the next year, while only 12% anticipate a fall – the lowest proportion in the history of the survey.

The Halifax House Price Outlook balance records the difference between the proportion of people that expect house prices to rise rather than fall. In March it stood +33 in March, much higher than the +20 recorded in the last survey in December 2012 and the highest since the survey began in April 2011.

The majority of people (55%) think the next 12 months will be a good time to sell, up from just 13% in December 2012. However, only 16% think it will be a good time to both buy and sell in the next 12 months.

Job security worries (58%) and the difficulty of saving the required deposit (57%) are the main cited obstacles to purchasing property, little changed since last December.

Martin Ellis, housing economist at Halifax, commented:

“There has been much more optimism about the prospects for the housing market over the past few months, particularly as the recent UK budget announced big plans for housing, and this seems to be reflected in the attitudes of the respondents. Sentiment regarding the outlook for house prices has improved markedly over the past quarter.

“This is likely to reflect the modest improvement in house prices nationally over recent months. A clear north / south divide exists with significantly higher proportions of people expecting prices to rise in the south than elsewhere in the UK.”

Steve Turner spokesperson for the Home Builders Federation, added:

“A lack of affordable mortgage lending has been the main constraint on housing supply for a number of years. If people can’t buy, builders can’t build. Clearly the government has recognised this and introduced measures to address it.

“Already products such as NewBuy are enabling people to get 95% mortgages, which combined with falling interest rates has resulted in a definite increase in consumer interest and new home reservations since New Year. Help to Buy should increase this momentum and allow more people to get on to the housing ladder. This turn, should enable builders to increase output.”

The survey showed that more people expect house values to rise than fall in all regions of the UK, with Londoners the most optimistic (+52%), followed by the South East of England (+46%). The Welsh (+10%) and those living in the North East of England (+17%) are the least hopeful when it comes to property price increases.

Michael Poole, who owns seven estate agencies on Teeside, agrees that there is little expectation of property price increases in the North East, but says the housing market in the region is undergoing a very gradual recovery nonetheless.

“As we all know, the UK is made up of a number of micro-markets rather than one broad housing market,” he said 

“We have actually seen an uptick in transactions in our part of the North East this year, although the market is undoubtedly still fragile. 

“There has been a marked improvement in buyer interest, probably as a result of greater mortgage availability thanks to the Funding for Lending scheme. But there has been no movement in house prices, as sellers are pricing their properties realistically.”

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