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The gap between house prices in London and other major regional cities is at its widest for 20 years, according to the August 2015 UK Cities House Price Index data. Overall city level house price inflation is running at 8.3% up from 6.6% in May.
City level house price growth up for fourth month
City level house price inflation is running at 8.3% per annum, up from 6.6% in May as the growth in demand for housing continues to exceed supply. A 38% uplift in mortgage approvals for home purchase in the last 6 months shows the scale of mortgage based demand attracted by ever lower mortgage rates. A similar expansion has been recorded in sales volumes.
Table 1- UK 20 city index summary, August 2015
Source: Hometrack House Price Indices
Despite the recent increase in market activity, the rate of housing turnover remains low by historic standards at just 5%, or a move every 20 years. Many sales are to buyers with nothing to sell which creates a greater imbalance between supply and demand as stock is replaced at a slower rate. Our latest analysis shows that half of buyers in the first half of 2015 had no property to sell (first time buyers and investors buying with a mortgage or cash). Only a recovery in the rate of moving amongst existing owners or more new supply will ease the current housing scarcity, something that seems unlikely in the near term.
The pricing discount between London and other major regional cities is at its widest level for 20 years.
Broader spread of growth
At a city level the highest rate of growth is 11.2% in Cambridge while the lowest is in Aberdeen at -2%. Compared to a year ago, just five cities are registering a higher rate of annual growth led by Edinburgh and Glasgow. Across the remaining fifteen cities growth has edged slightly lower although the three month growth rates suggest continued near term price rises.
Widest pricing gap between London and major cities
The rise of London house prices has seen the gap between London and other regional cities widen to its greatest level for 20 years. Cities such as Glasgow have average prices almost 75% lower than London with those in Bristol 47% lower. This pricing differential could well assist city regions attract new investment as investors and developers seek to expand in more affordable markets.
The price/earnings ratio for cities shows London now exceeding 12x while many other major cities have ratios that are on a par with their long run average. With mortgage rates still well below their long run average, this highlights scope for further house price inflation as the benefits of economic recovery start to spread across more households.Fig. 3 – Price to earnings ratio - selected cities
Average UK city house prices have increased at an annual average rate of 4.4% per annum. While price falls in the latter part of 2018 suppressed the annual growth rate, these have dropped out of the annual growth calculation and explain the increase in the current annual rate of growth. The outlook for 2020 will be driven by affordability factors. We expect city house prices to increase by +3% over 2020 with above average growth in the most affordable cities and below average growth in cities across London and southern England.
UK city house price inflation is higher as prices start to firm up in London and Southern England. Large regional cities continue to post above average price growth on the back of rising demand and attractive affordability, supported by low mortgage rates. London is experiencing its highest rate of growth for 2 years and follows a period of modest price falls.
HPI is currently running at +2.4%, half the average growth over the last five years, and below average earnings growth. Time to sell has hit a 3 year high, while discount to asking price has widened across UK cities. Despite this, underlying market conditions still vary widely across large areas of the country.
With HPI moderating at 1.9%, it appears the slowdown in house price growth is an indication of a return to a more sustainable pace of price growth. However, a change in buyer mix from cash buyers to those with mortgages, plus wide variance in the recovery of house prices is sending mixed signals about current housing market activity.