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UK housing market picking up speed thanks to growing confidence

With prices continuing to recover across all major house price indices at the moment, the UK housing market is once again ramping up as buyers and sellers become more optimistic. 

The latest Halifax house price index revealed a fifth consecutive month of price rises last week, running alongside the likes of Nationwide which also reported a boost in its latest index, while property portals Zoopla and Rightmove are also showing a rise in asking prices in their latest trackers.

While the Office for National Statistics is yet to report the market being back into growth in terms of pricing, the decreases we had been seeing earlier in 2023 have slowed significantly – and as this measure looks at all sold prices across the country, this index runs a couple of months behind the rest.

The most recent data, from Halifax, shows a greatly improved UK housing market compared with last year. House prices were up 0.4% in February – the fifth consecutive monthly rise – and up by 1.7% compared with February 2023. Mortgage borrowers were also up in February, as more people took advantage of falling interest rates.

This means that mortgage approvals are now at their highest point since October 2022, with new approvals rising to 55,200 in January from 51,500 in December (Bank of England data). For the UK housing market, this is a hugely positive indication of a rise in confidence.

UK housing market almost back to peak

Taking Halifax’s research, which is based on mortgaged property sales through the lender, house prices are now only £1,800 below what they were at their peak in June 2022, which is a huge turnaround. However, all regions did not perform equally, which is why buyers and investors should always look specifically at the trends in their area.

For example, the north west stood out as one of the top performing regions in the UK housing market, as heightened appetite for property there saw property prices rise by 4.4% between February 2023 and February 2024. Likewise, Northern Ireland and the north east also saw price rises well above the average.

Meanwhile, Halifax recorded annual price falls of -0.8% for the east of England and -0.6% for the south east, bringing down the average for the UK.

As Andrew Montlake, managing director at broker Coreco, points out, the continuing resilience of the UK housing market through multiple headwinds is “flummoxing many house price crash activists” – and this is certainly not for the first time, as the market held its own through the likes of Brexit and the pandemic, too.

“Much now depends on the next set of inflationary figures, but the public are crying out for a rate cut, rather than any more talk of potential rises,” Montlake added. “What happens to mortgage rates will ultimately define the housing market this year.

“What we are, however, seeing is a growing number of prospective buyers looking to do something this year rather than keep their lives on hold any longer.”

Picking up speed

Others in the industry echo this sentiment, with Jonathan Hopper, CEO of Garrington Property Finders, commenting that the “corner is being turned” in the UK housing market as it “is picking up speed”.

“While the supply of homes for sale is still limited in some areas, the market has finally become more free-flowing,” he said. “‘For sale’ signs are becoming an increasingly common sight, and we are seeing rising interest from both buyers and sellers.

“The falling prices of last year appear to be in the rear-view mirror, and many buyers who sat on their hands in 2023 are deciding that now is the time to strike, as the cost of borrowing comes down and before property prices start to accelerate back up.”

Referring to last week’s spring budget in relation to the latest statistics, Anthony Codling, MD, RBC Capital Markets, said: “Following the lacklustre budget, it was heartening to see in the Halifax report today that average UK house prices rose by 0.4% MoM in February, up around £1,000, the fifth consecutive month that prices have risen.

“In our view and the picture from our own data sets is that the underlying health of the UK housing market is improving, so maybe the lack of housing market support in yesterday’s budget is not as disappointing as we first thought.”

Read more about how the spring budget could impact the UK housing market, and check out the rest of our property market news here

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