Your Money: Housing Market Outlook 'unclear'
Wed 06 Feb 2013
Housing market outlook 'unclear'
The latest Halifax House Price Index paints a mixed picture for house prices across the country. Halifax found that the average house price in the three month period between November and January was 1.3% higher than the same spell last year.
This was the first quarterly rise since October 2010. However the lender also found that prices had fallen 0.2% in the month between December and January. Housing economist Martin Ellis said that the Funding for Lending Scheme had helped lower rates but that the long-term outlook remained uncertain.
"The Funding for Lending Scheme has helped lenders to lower interest rates and improve availability in the past few months. This is likely to have been a factor contributing to the pick-up in both home sales and prices. "Market activity has also improved with sales in 2012 at their highest for five years. Rising mortgage approval numbers point to further increases in home sales in the coming months.
"The outlook for the UK economy and house prices, however, is more unclear than usual. Subdued economic growth and pressures on household finances are expected to constrain housing demand. Overall, we expect continuing broad stability in house prices nationally in 2013."
Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, agreed that the market was hard to judge at the present time: "The housing market presents a confused picture. "On the one hand, prices fell in January following rises in November and December, while on the other prices registered their first annual rise in 27 months. These national averages also conceal significant regional differences, with prices falling in parts of the country while rising in others. "We would like to see more options at better rates at higher LTVs, to support the first-time buyer market, but this is slowly starting to happen."
Ben Thompson, MD Legal & General Mortgage Club, added: "Such a slow market recovery can be attributed in part to a lack of consumer confidence, alongside restrictive borrowing conditions which are inhibiting further growth in the market.
"Although in many cases it is actually cheaper to buy than to rent in the current climate, there is still a lack of products available to the majority of first-time buyers which would enable them to take that first step onto the ladder.
"Although many lenders are now consciously improving lending criteria, which will in turn help to grow the market, this isn't something that can be transformed overnight."
Peter Rollings, CEO of estate agent Marsh & Parsons, added: The housing markets new-found momentum is far from unstoppable, but there seems to be an increased optimism for prospective home buyers in 2013. Credit conditions look to be easing as the impact of Funding For Lending scheme hits home, and the most encouraging fact of all is that it is finally starting push up first time buyer numbers. If this trend continues, we should see an increasing number of buyers able to enter the market and drive national house price growth from the bottom up.
But all the signs are there that Londons market will see an even stronger spring. Strengthened domestic buyer demand has been supplemented by increased interest from Europe in the last month following the Euros climb against the pound, and as a result weve seen buyer numbers up by 9% compared to the same time as last year. This will feed through into enhanced competition in coming months, boosting sales prices and transactions in prime London in the first half of the year.