Nationwide: Annual house price growth remains subdued

Ryan Fowler

October 29, 2019

Annual house price growth stood at 0.4% in October as the average price of a house in the UK reached £215,368, according to the latest Nationwide House Price Index.

On a monthly basis the average price of a home was up £17 as the overall market registered a modest 0.2% rise month-on-month, after taking account of seasonal factors.

Robert Gardner, chief economist at Nationwide, said: “Annual house price growth remained below 1% for the 11th month in a row in October, at 0.4%.

“Average prices rose by around £800 over the last 12 months, a significant slowing compared with recent years – for example, in the same period to October 2016, prices increased by £9,100.

“Indicators of UK economic activity have been fairly volatile in recent quarters, but the underlying pace of growth appears to have slowed as a result of weaker global growth and an intensifying of Brexit uncertainty.

“To date, the slowdown has centred on business investment, while household spending has been more resilient.”

However Gardner said a number of “offsetting forces” were keeping the housing activity stable.

He added: “The underlying pace of housing market activity has remained broadly stable, with the number of mortgages approved for house purchase continuing within the fairly narrow range prevailing over the past two years.

“Solid labour market conditions and low borrowing costs appear to be offsetting the drag from the uncertain economic outlook. The question is whether this pattern will continue.

“There were tentative signs of a softening in the jobs market in the three months to August, as employment fell, unemployment rose, and wage growth slowed a little.

“If this trend continues it would be a significant concern, as the labour market has been the key factor underpinning the resilience of the household sector in recent years.

“However, monthly data is often volatile and the unemployment rate remains close to 40 year lows and real earnings growth (i.e. after taking account of inflation) is close to levels prevailing before the financial crisis.

“If Brexit uncertainty lifts in the months ahead, hiring is likely to recover, although there may be some upward pressure on mortgage rates as investors once again contemplate the potential for UK rate increases in the years ahead.

“However, in the near term such increases are likely to be capped by trends in global financial markets. Weak global economic prospects continue to exert downward pressure on long-term interest rates around the world – including the UK.

“Moreover, mortgage rates remain close to all-time lows – more than 95% of borrowers have opted for fixed rate deals in recent quarters, around half of which have opted to fix for five years.

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, commented on the subdued house price growth as unsurprising.

Harris added: “While Brexit uncertainty continues, people don’t want to make big decisions about moving home unless they absolutely have to.

“It is hard to see how this will change until there is more certainty and some resolution politically, either way.

“Those who are taking out mortgages or remortgaging are taking advantage of cheap fixed rates with half of these choosing to secure their deal for the medium-term of five years.

“This suggests that borrowers are concerned about the future movement of interest rates, while at the same time are taking advantage of the price war among lenders, resulting in rock-bottom rates.

“This is encouraging because if rates do rise, most borrowers will be able to ride out the storm and benefit from manageable mortgage payments.”

Guy Harrington, chief executive of property lender Glenhawk, claimed that the uncertain political circumstances are having an impact on the housing market.

Harrington said: “It’s one headwind after another. Our politicians are doing the housing market no favours; Brexit uncertainty has now been compounded by general election uncertainty, creating a near perfect storm of unsupportive conditions for growth.

“Despite an improving earnings and high employment environment the market remains characterised by sluggish prices, with only what, at this stage, looks like a highly unlikely resolution to the political situation set to shift this sentiment.”

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