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Housing downturn - not quite as bad as first feared?

The mood music surrounding the housing market downturn appears to have become less dramatic with news from the Nationwide that there could be a relatively soft landing.

The mortgage lender is predicting property prices will drop some five per cent in 2023 after what it cals a “remarkably resilient” 2022. 

Robert Gardner, chief economist, says: “Between January and August, the average UK house price increased by almost £20,000, from £255,556 to £273,751. This performance was all the more surprising since housing affordability was already stretched in a number of important respects. In particular, deposit requirements had become increasingly onerous as a result of house prices outstripping earnings by a wide margin in recent years. 

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“But the financial market turbulence which followed the mini-Budget at the end of September represented a major shock to the housing market. The number of mortgage applications slumped towards the lows seen at the start of the pandemic as a spike in long-term interest rates quickly fed through to mortgage rates and fundamentally changed the affordability dynamic for prospective buyers.”

Now, however, the market has fully recovered from the mini-Budget shocks and Gardner thinks other factors are now slowing the market. 

“The recent weakness may, in part, reflect an early start to the usual seasonal slowdown, with potential buyers opting to wait until the New Year to see how mortgage rates evolve before looking to transact. But it will be hard for the market to regain much momentum with economic headwinds set to strengthen, as real earnings fall further, the Bank of England moves interest rates higher and with the labour market widely projected to weaken as the economy shrinks” he says.

“The risks are skewed to the downside, but there is still a good chance that we can achieve a relatively soft landing next year with activity stabilising modestly below pre-pandemic levels and house prices edging lower, perhaps by around five per cent.

“The Bank of England is likely to raise interest rates a little further, although in recent years most borrowers have opted for fixed rate mortgages which are linked to longer term interest rates that may have already peaked. If so, this will help provide some support to affordability as will solid gains in nominal earnings growth and modestly lower house prices.

“While the labour market is expected to soften, most expect the deterioration to be modest. Many forecasters, including us, expect the unemployment rate to rise to around five per cent in the years ahead – this would represent a significant rise from the current rate of 3.7 per cent, but would still be low by historic standards.

“Moreover, household balance sheets remain in good shape with significant protection from higher borrowing costs, at least for a period, with around 85 per cent of mortgage balances on fixed interest rates.”

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    A 5% drop sounds very optimistic to me, I think 10 - 15% drop would be nearer the mark

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    Yes I agree. Anyone wanting to buy a property who doesn't already have a mortgage deal agreed before 23 Sept is going to find it's a lot more expensive than they thought. Also there will be an estimated 100,000 people per month coming off fixed term deals. Add in energy costs and the govt subsidy ending in March, doesn't look too good to me.

     
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    Yes, Nationwide does seem slightly optimistic. I thought house prices would fall no more than 10%.
    Interest rates are still low and as such I believe a lot of first time buyers will afford these rates and will make the most of a falling market.
    I think this fall will be short lived and come to an end this time next year if not in the Autumn.
    That said, I am still selling in order to get my loan to value down into the 20's if not lower.
    Plus I will have to put up rents drastically, looking at £100 increases per month. Even with these increases for most of my remaining properties I am still below the average.

     
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