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There are signs that the underlying rate of house price growth has peaked, as thirteen of the twenty cities tracked by the Hometrack Cities Index have registered a slower rate of growth post-election.
City level house price growth tentative slowdown
City level house price inflation is running at 8.4% per annum up from 6.6% in May as a post-election surge in demand continues to put upward pressure on house prices. There are signs that the underlying pace of growth may have peaked. The three month rate of growth expressed on an annualised basis appears to have reached a peak (fig.1).
Table 1- UK 20 city index summary, September 2015
Source: Hometrack House Price Indices
The year on year rate of house price growth masks more volatility in the underlying rate of growth. There is a clear cyclical movement in house prices and since March 2015 the 3 month rate of growth, expressed on an annualised basis has risen to over 16%, slipping back slightly in September to 15%. This will in part be due to seasonal factors with mortgage approvals for home purchase increasing strongly over June and July while falling back 15% in August. The outlook for housing demand remains positive but the question is whether the post-election surge can be sustained. We expect demand to moderate in the run up to the year end with a modest slowdown in the pace of monthly house price growth compared to the last four months.
Signs of slower growth across 13 cities
It is dangerous to read too much into one month’s headline results data but at a city level the average rate of in the last three months has slowed across thirteen of the twenty cities covered by the index.
Discount from asking to achieved prices
The discount between asking and achieved prices averages 3% (fig.2). Newcastle and Liverpool have the largest discount between asking and achieved prices averaging 6% against below average house price inflation of 4%. Cambridge is registering a small premium of 2% as strong demand and scarce supply are sustaining the highest city level price growth.
Wide variation in performance in last 8 years
While city level house price growth is running ahead of earnings, average house prices are still below the levels recorded eight years ago in nine cities. The majority of cities have average prices between +18% in Bristol and -14% in Liverpool. Belfast prices still remain almost half the level seen in 2007 while those in London are 43% higher highlighting there is no such thing as a single UK housing market.
UK city house price growth in February 2020 was +1.6%, higher than the +1.2% a year ago. That said, in recent weeks coronavirus has had a rapid impact on housing demand, which is 40% lower in the last week. Transaction volumes are set to decline by an estimated 60% in the next quarter with a further fall in sales volumes over Q3 2020.
This month's Cities Index is the second in a row to record a 3.9% increase year-on-year. This is taking average prices up to a nearly 3-year high. Prices have now also recovered across all English cities to pre-recession 2007 levels. Supply is still flat and outpaced by demand, at 2.6%.
This month’s Cities Index shows a continuation of the strong end to 2019. City house price growth is at a two-year high, at 3.9%. Coupled with a bounce in demand, which at 26% far exceeds the traditional new year boost, we see green shoots of returning market optimism. At a regional level, affordability of local stock is driving growth forecasts for Northern and Midlands cities, while in the South, the picture is more subdued.
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.