U.K. Home Prices Rise More Than Expected Despite End of Tax Cut
U.K. house prices rose more than expected in November as activity held up despite the end of a tax relief for homebuyers, Nationwide Building Society said on Wednesday.
The average price of a home increased 0.9% to 252,687 pounds ($337,600), according to the mortgage lender. Economists had expected a gain of 0.4% and the pace outstripped even the most optimistic forecast of 0.5%. The annual rate of growth climbed to 10%.
October saw the ending of a tax cut on house purchases that has helped fuel a boom since it was introduced in July 2020. But other factors supporting the market remained in place, including shortages of homes for sale and pandemic-driven demand for larger properties away from city centers.
Borrowing costs have also stayed low, despite the prospect of an increase in U.K. interest rates in December. Figures from the Bank of England this week showed that tough competition between lenders brought the efffective rate on new mortgage lending down to 1.59% in October, the lowest on record.
“Demand for property remains very strong, while supply is exceptionally weak, and the result is double-digit house price growth,” said Andrew Simmonds, director at Bristol-based Parker’s Estate Agents.
Nationwide nonetheless warned of a squeeze on living standards for households, with inflation accelerating, interest rates poised to rise and tax increases set to hit in the spring. The new omicron coronavirus variant could make people more cautious about spending, it added.
“While consumer confidence stabilized in November, sentiment remains well below the levels seen during the summer, partly as a result of a sharp increase in the cost of living. Moreover, inflation is set to rise further, probably towards 5% in the coming quarters,” said Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist. “The outlook remains uncertain, where a number of factors suggest the pace of activity may slow. It is unclear what impact the new omicron variant will have on the wider economy.”
He added: “Even if economic conditions continue to improve, rising interest rates may exert a cooling influence on the market. Indeed, house price growth has been outpacing income growth by a significant margin and, as a result, housing affordability is already less favorable than was the case before the pandemic struck.”
Housing activity has cooled in recent months, with the number of transactions down almost 30% year-on-year in October but Gardner said that was “almost inevitable” after the end of the stamp duty tax break. Transactions this year have exceeded the total for 2020 with two months to spare and approvals for house purchases are still running above 2019 monthly averages.
“Early indications suggest that labor market conditions remain robust, despite the furlough scheme finishing at the end of September. If this is maintained, housing market conditions may remain fairly buoyant in the coming months,” Gardner said.
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