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UK house prices bounce back as market shows “surprising” resilience

The housing market continues to be buoyed by strong appetite, with UK house prices rising once more despite higher mortgage rates.

Both monthly and annual growth was recorded in the latest Nationwide figures looking at UK house prices, in what has been described as a “rebound” in the face of ongoing affordability pressures. It demonstrates the overall strength that the UK housing market continues to show, as buyer appetite remains high.

After taking into account any seasonal effects impacting the market, UK house prices shifted upwards by 0.4% in May compared with the previous month, representing an annual increase of 1.3% in the year to April. This is an improvement on last month’s annual change, as momentum continues to build.

This brings the average UK property value (based on Nationwide’s sold price statistics) to £264,249 this month, compared with £261,962 in April.

The values that come from the likes of Nationwide and Halifax tend to be much lower than Zoopla and Rightmove estimates because the property portals use asking price data; while the lenders use data from properties sold with mortgages, excluding cash buyers as well as buy-to-let transactions.

The picture across the market so far this year has been one of growing optimism, as lenders have brought in more competitive rates and products in response to predictions that the wider interest rate would fall. Unfortunately, the Bank of England is still yet to lower its rate, but this is not drastically affecting confidence, it seems.

As Andrew Harvey, senior economist at Nationwide, said: “I think we have been a little surprised actually by the resilience in the market because those affordability pressures have been quite significant.”

Strong wage growth along with falling inflation levels have played a big part in improving consumer confidence so far this year, the lender pointed out.

Will UK house prices be affected by general election?

The figures from the latest house price index will not take into account any effects from the recent announcement that the next general election would be held on 4th July. However, looking at past trends and changes, it seems general elections have less impact on UK house prices than wider economic factors.

Because of this, Nationwide has also released statistics detailing how the market has performed around the time of previous elections, as well as around the 2016 EU referendum which was arguably at least as significant for the market as a general election.

Its findings broadly found that past general elections have not produced volatility for UK house prices, or particularly altered any trends in the market.

It noted: “In the chart (below) we have indexed average house prices so they equal 100 in the election months in each of the years shown. We can then compare house price movements in the six months leading up to each election (t-6 to t-1) and following each vote (t+1 to t+6).”

House prices around elections May24

“On the whole, prevailing trends have been maintained just before, during and after UK general elections. Broader economic trends appear to dominate any immediate election-related impacts.”

Historic resilience

This is not the first time that UK house prices and the property market have defied the expectations of some economists.

At the start of the Covid outbreak, for example, predictions of a housing market crash were rife – yet the market actually accelerated to record-breaking levels, and we are still arguably experiencing the after-effects of that in the form of what some describe as a market correction, with a more stable market.

Many people believe in the theory of the “property market cycle“, which is a roughly 18-year cycle divided into three phases: recovery, boom and crash. Analysing these cycles can help investors anticipate market trends – however, in the UK housing market, the long-term pattern has historically always shown a trajectory of growth.

For example, recent analysis by Benham and Reeves found that investors in Manchester – which has seen the fastest growth of all cities when looking at average UK house prices – will have seen the value of their investment rise by around 65% in the past eight years.

This data is a good indication of the importance of location, as well as looking at the wider trends and trajectories of the wider market and UK house prices.

Comments from the market

Nathan Emerson, CEO of Propertymark, said: “The housing sector has seen a strong start to the year and it’s positive to see further momentum.

“We are conscious there may be a potential slow down across the summer as a knock-on effect following the general election, but with inflation firmly on its journey downward and with scope for interest rate cuts, we may soon see a much welcome influx of highly competitive deals from lenders hit the marketplace.”

Nicky Stevenson, Managing Director at national estate agent group Fine & Country: “House prices had been yo-yoing from economic gales, but May’s figures indicate calmer waters ahead for the housing market.

“Previously hesitant home buyers are feeling more confident to pull the trigger on moving plans as financial strains ease.

“With inflation moving closer to the government’s 2% target and potential interest rate cuts this summer, demand may surge further into 2024. This will help to stabilise or even nudge prices upwards amid buyer competition – a positive development for sellers.

“Lenders are also lowering rates in response to more favourable conditions, making homeownership more attainable, especially for first-time buyers previously deterred by high monthly payments or excessively long mortgage terms.

“If current trends persist, the UK housing market could experience a steady rebound, with prices rising moderately in popular areas and hot markets.

“However, affordability concerns may linger, particularly for those on lower incomes or in regions with high living costs.”

If you’re looking for your next UK property investment in one of the country’s top-performing locations, get in touch with BuyAssociation today. You can also browse some of our current investment opportunities

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