SPECIAL FEATURE: London’s hotspots in 2016

Mortgage Introducer

December 22, 2015

Tooting and Queen’s Park are the places to watch in 2016, writes Marsh & Parsons chief executive Peter Rollings as he outlines London’s prospects.

Property price growth in outer prime areas of the capital is forecast to eclipse the centre.

We are predicting prime property values to experience modest 3% growth throughout 2016 – but the fringes of the capital are expected to see much faster price rises of 5% or higher.

The market below £1.5m is forecast to be the main driver of price growth in the coming year, as stamp duty continues to take the shine off the wealthiest segment of the London property market.

As a result, the popularity of more affordable and emerging locations is boosting activity and prices in these areas above levels seen elsewhere across the capital.  With direct transport links into Bank on the Northern line, and a leafy common on the doorstep, buyer demand has quickly spread from Balham to neighbouring Tooting.

And in the north west, Queen’s Park is providing a credible ‘next step’ for those priced out of North Kensington and Little Venice, and is well serviced by the underground and overground rail connections directly into Euston.

With a top rate of stamp duty of 12% now in place, the highest tiers of the London property market have been severely tempered in recent months as buyers struggle to absorb the additional transaction levy.

Total prime London property sales dropped between the second half of 2014 and the first six months of 2015 and it is sales above £937,000 – the threshold at which the higher stamp duty charges apply – which have seen the sharpest fall of all.

In 2015, 59% of London property sales have been for homes below the £937,000 marker, while purchases above this price threshold account for 41%, as the top of the market slows.

In 2016 sellers will have to adjust their price expectations to make their properties more competitive and attractive. But properties that are priced realistically will still sell well, and quickly.

At the start of this year, London homes for sale were typically achieving 95% of their asking prices, but this has climbed throughout the year to stand at 97% as of November 2015.

The Chancellor’s stamp duty changes have certainly dulled the London housing market of late, and whilst 2016 will see a return to growth it will be rather lack-lustre.

There now exists a fundamental unevenness between sellers – who want to sell their properties at the prices they were at six months ago – and buyers, who are seeking recompense for the increased stamp uty levelled at them.

It’s already started but it’s going to take a while to iron out these differences, and in the meantime the brightest spots of house price growth will be in places where average house prices are climbing from a lower base.

Gone are the days of ‘travel-card zone snobbery’ – and London buyers will increasingly stretch their aspirations southwards and northwards well into zones 3 and beyond to find the best priced properties.

What we have commonly considered prime London is growing geographically, feeding off the popularity of new progressing areas.

The majority of London house price growth will occur in the first quarter of next year, as a new influx of buyers start looking for properties in January.

The first quarter of the year typically experiences higher levels of buyer demand than others and with the introduction of a further 3% penalty at all price bands for buy-to-let investors and those buying a second home, the first quarter of 2016 will be particularly busy.

In January 2015, Marsh & Parsons recorded a 14% month-on-month jump in buyer registrations, and it is expected that this pattern to continue in 2016. Demand across Q1 2015 as a whole was up 19% on Q4 2014.

As of December 2015, there are 13 buyers per every available property on the market, and this has risen from 10 a year previously. As demand continues to outstrip substantially supply, London house prices will only move upwards in 2016.

Marsh & Parsons predicts that interest rates will finally begin to rise in 2016. The current Bank of England base rate of interest stands at 0.5% and the estate agency expects the rate to increase by 0.25 percentage points to 0.75% towards the end of the year.

The first half of next year is where the main action will take place.

Typically we see buyers flood onto the market straight after the Christmas break, having postponed plans in the festive build-up, to make a fresh start to the year.

But we expect that as the economy strengthens throughout 2016 the Bank of England will become confident enough to raise the base rate, albeit only slightly. Nevertheless, even a minor increase can be significant as it is an indicator of the Bank’s long term intentions – namely, to get rates back to where they were pre-2008.

Borrowers have been spoilt of late, finding a wealth of competitive mortgage deals available, but this will serve as a reminder to would-be buyers that the current rock bottom rates will not last forever.

As a result, we can expect more buyers and existing homeowners locking in to longer fixed-term mortgages in the early stages of next year, in hope of forestalling the impact of any rate rises.

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