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UK house prices increased by 7.9% in the 12 months to January 2015, down from 8.1% from December 2014. The underlying 3 month annualised rate of growth stands at 4.6%. For the last five months the weakest performing cities have been registering positive growth on a rising trend. The impetus for national house price growth is emerging from the lower growth cities where house prices have been recovering for a limited period.
At a city level the annual rate of growth ranges from 4.1% in Glasgow to 16.3% in Aberdeen. Figure 1 shows the spread in year on year growth between the highest and lowest growth cities since 2002. Belfast was the city registering 60% year on year growth in mid 2007 where prices today are 50% below their peak, 2007, levels.
For the last five months the weakest performing cities have been registering positive growth on a rising trend. The impetus for national house price growth is emerging from the lower growth cities where house prices have been recovering for a limited period. We expect the gap between high and low growth cities to narrow further in the months ahead as house price inflation slows in the higher growth markets.
The profile of the recent recovery in house prices varies across markets. There are two distinct groups of cities shown in figure 2. First are those where house prices bottomed out in 2008/9 and have been recovering for 5-6 years. Second are cities where prices stopped falling as late as 2013 and the recovery has been shorter, running for the last 2-3 years.
Figure 2 shows the level of house price inflation from these recent lows with average prices in London up 55% compared to just 6% in Glasgow.
The length of time a city has seen house prices recover is not correlated to the level of house price growth. Fourteen cities saw house prices trough in 2008/9 with the strongest gains in southern England. The lowest growth has been seen in cities such as Manchester and Birmingham where the performance of house prices is more reliant on the local economy and growth in incomes and employment.
The high growth, high value cities have now largely priced in lower mortgage rates and affordability pressures are set to limit the rate of house price inflation. London (13.6), Bristol (10.8%), Oxford (8.6%) and Cambridge (5.3%) are all continuing to register slower house price inflation.
The overall outlook is for continued house price growth but at a lower rate. There are no signs of any price falls at a city level. Demand continues to be stimulated by record low mortgage rates, falling unemployment and rising earnings. A lack of housing for sale will continue to keep an upward pressure on house prices. We expect the cities that have under-performed to continue to provide the impetus for house price growth in 2015.
House price inflation varies between markets and whether developing, investing or lending into local housing markets these local differentials are important.
What the analysis does show is the dangers of focusing on the UK rate of house price inflation and even regional growth rates. House price inflation varies between markets and whether developing, investing or lending into local housing markets these local differentials are important. For example, some house price indices put Scottish house price inflation in double digits while city level price inflation is much lower. Having an accurate view on house price growth is important for better informed decision making.
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.
UK City HPI is running at 2.3%, with Liverpool and Edinburgh seeing growth of +6% and Aberdeen -5%. Looking at average house price growth versus growth in average earnings, we can see that affordability levels are starting to improve. Twelve cities are registering price growth that is lower than the growth in average earnings.