House price growth moderates to 5.8%

Prices from July to September were 0.1% lower than April to June.

House price growth has slowed to 5.8% in the three months to September year-on-year, the Halifax House Price Index has revealed.

Growth has fallen from 6.9% in August and 10% in March as the market was moderated by the Brexit vote, the 3% stamp duty surcharge and the traditionally slower summer months.

Prices from July to September were 0.1% lower than April to June.

Martin Ellis, Halifax housing economist, said: “The housing market has followed a steady downward trend over the past six months with clear evidence of both a softening in activity levels and an easing in house price inflation.

“A lengthy period where house prices have risen more rapidly than earnings has put pressure on affordability, therefore constraining demand.

“Very low mortgage rates and a shortage of properties available for sale should, however, help support price levels over the coming months.”

UK home sales were largely unchanged between July and August, at 97,660. Sales were, however, 6% lower than in August 2015.

The volume of mortgage approvals for house purchases – a leading indicator of completed house sales – fell by 1.4% between July and August, the third successive monthly decline. Approvals in the three months to August were also 11% lower than in the same three months last year.

Ian Thomas, co-founder and director of online mortgage lender LendInvest, said: “Recent months have seen a number of external factors chipping away at demand, such as Brexit, the additional stamp duty charge on second homes and the traditionally slow summer.

“The confirmation that the Help to Buy scheme will end later this year is another one. The initiative has been extremely popular, so it will be interesting to see if its conclusion will drive down demand and therefore sales of new build properties.

“It is good that the government has made housebuilding such a significant part of their party conference over the last week, with new measures designed to improve the rate at which we build new homes. The time for talking about the housing shortage must end - we need action, not words.”

According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors the stock of homes available for sale fell for the third month in a row in August, and remains around the lowest levels ever recorded.

Adrian Gill, executive director at Your Move & Reeds Rains, reckoned it’s still a great time to buy a home.

He said: “The Bank Base Rate is holding at its historic low of 0.25% and lenders’ appetite to lend continues to be strong.

“In the short-medium term, therefore, the outlook for the housing market is positive. In order to ensure this optimism continues, it is paramount that we see a greater number of new homes come to the market every year.

“The stunted supply of new properties has meant that fewer existing homeowners are able to move up the housing ladder, ultimately impacting first time buyers. For many of these would-be homeowners, the private rental sector has become their only refuge.

“The new government has already alluded to the fact that housebuilding will be front and centre of its agenda, which is absolutely necessary. What we cannot forget about, however, is the important role the private rental sector also plays in our nation’s housing supply.”

Jeremy Duncombe, director of Legal & General Mortgage Club, said the market is still flush with competitive rates despite the doom and gloom.

He said: “Despite the seasonal lull we have seen in recent months, what remains consistent is that annually, house prices are continuing to increase well above inflation.

“Although it is easy to assume this increase is positive, first-time buyers can often feel trapped in this widening gulf between house price inflation and wage inflation.

“Homeowners, too, can sometimes feel stuck in their current properties without the means to save up the fees needed to move house.

“It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Following the Bank of England’s historic decision to cut the base rate to 0.25%, many borrowers have the opportunity to remortgage onto more favourable deals.

“The market is flush with hugely competitive rates, and borrowers who act now by speaking to an adviser could save themselves thousands of pounds a year by ensuring they are the best deal available to them.”

Rob Weaver, director of investments at property crowdfunding platform Property Partner, reckoned panic stations for the commercial sector are settling down.

He said: “The softening in market activity due to affordability issues has been counter-balanced with the severe shortage in housing supply, and it is this that has helped to support prices.

“While at a national level house prices are standing firm, evidence suggests that the prime central London market is continuing to slow down. Many would like to blame Brexit but really its stamp duty - essentially a tax on mobility - which has put many buyers off.

“However, further slides in the pound and indices reporting steady growth post-Brexit, should make the UK property sector an attractive destination for foreign investment. I expect though that overseas buyers will take a cautious approach rather than rush in.

“With record low interest rates and a continuing paucity of homes for sale, prices look likely to remain fairly solid until the end of the year. Recent surveys showing renewed consumer and business confidence after the EU referendum is also cause for optimism.”

Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, has seen increased activity since the beginning of September.

He said: "We have seen an increase in activity although buyers are still relatively slow to commit until they are sure they have achieved what they think are the best possible terms.

'These figures are interesting because they show that prices held up better than expected bearing in mind they reflect the period immediately following the referendum, albeit they are based on very low stock and declining transactions.

"Responsible agents and surveyors want to see more balance between supply and demand. The proposals coming out of the Conservative party conference for addressing supply are encouraging but we want to see as soon as possible on the ground what difference they will really make."