York north of England

North of England more resilient to rising mortgage costs

The rising cost of borrowing will undoubtedly affect many homeowners and property investors, but it seems those in the north of England are more likely to be shielded from the impact.

In a report looking at the UK’s prime property market, Savills has revealed how the sector is performing, how mortgage borrowing costs are impacting owners, and what the short- and long-term outlook is for the country’s prime property sector.

The research reveals some interesting geographical variations that might help investors make their investment decisions this year, and could be a predictor for which markets will thrive throughout the ongoing economic conditions.

The north of England is singled out, alongside the Midlands, the south of England beyond the commuter zone, and Scotland, as an area that has not only remained the most robust throughout the pandemic, but is set to come out the most unscathed as mortgage rates creep upwards.

Affordability leads the way in north of England

In both the prime and the mainstream housing markets, parts of the north of England remain the most affordable places to invest in property across the UK. As London’s housing market hit a peak and stagnated in recent years, buyers were increasingly drawn to the north of England where price rises remained healthy.

As Savills points out, markets further from London tend to see mortgage affordability that is the least stretched, and are the “most robust”. In terms of recent price adjustments, these areas saw the smallest changes in the prime property space: the Midlands and North (-0.1%), Scotland (-0.7%), and the South of England beyond the commuter zone (-1.1%).

“These regions were typically the strongest performers throughout the pandemic, attracting equity-rich buyers from London and the commuter zone during the so-called ‘race for space’. As a consequence, average prime prices in the wider South of England remain 17.3% above where they were prior to March 2020,” says the report.

Most experts agree that rising mortgage costs are one of the main reasons why house prices may struggle to continue to rise at the same rate, as people’s buying power weakens. So it makes sense that the most expensive areas, where a higher number of buyers will depend on borrowing, will stall the most.

The report notes: “Prime properties in London suburban locations and across both the inner and outer commuter zones have seen price falls of -2.1%, -1.6% and -2.2%, respectively, over the past three months.”

However, like in the north of England, these price drops follow on from a period of exceptional growth, and prices in the suburbs remain 16.5% up on March 2020, while they are 12.7% higher across the commuter belt.

What’s the outlook?

The prime housing markets in the north of England and Midlands are expected to see the greatest level of price growth over the next five years, at a compound growth rate of 13.3%. Investors buying in certain key areas could even expect to see a higher rate of capital appreciation in the coming years.

This is followed by Scotland, expecting to see price growth of 12.7% between now and 2027, and the wider south at 11.6%. Across all prime regional, the expected five-year compound growth rate is 9.9%.

The report notes: “Although the imbalance between demand and supply persists in the regional market, the economic challenges have put buyers’ spending power under pressure, and this will temper demand over 2023.

“We are forecasting prices in the prime regional market to be -6.5% down on average by the end of the year, leaving values where they were in mid-2021.”

However, it points out that price falls will be cushioned in the short term by the constrained quantity of premium stock available. A recent client survey conducted by Savills also shows optimism and a “strong commitment to move over the next 24 months”, which will further support the market.

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