Property market 'is cooling down'

There are signs that the property market is cooling, according to a report

There are signs that the property market is cooling, according to a report

First published in National News © by

Further signs that the property market is cooling down have been reported by surveyors, who said the number of people looking new homes has fallen back for the first time in a year and a half.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' (Rics) July survey found that its members now expect property values to increase at a faster rate outside London over the next year than within the capital.

Despite the signs of a slowdown in demand from potential home-buyers, the typical surveyor sold nearly 25 properties in the three months to July, putting house sales at the strongest levels seen since summer 2007.

An overall balance of 5% of surveyors reported demand for homes falling rather than increasing in July, marking the first net decline in buyers coming to the market seen since January 2013, which was before the launch of the Government's flagship Help to Buy mortgage support scheme.

Rics said it is not yet clear whether the trends it is seeing represent "a pause for breath or a genuine turning point".

It said that while across the UK, the housing market picture appears "broadly resilient, the London indicators are going into reverse".

Rics reported that in London, where house price growth has previously been particularly fierce, inquiries are falling at their fastest rate since 2008, sales are also in decline and price momentum is "fading rapidly".

Rics said that a typical first-time buyer in London is perceived to need a deposit of 22% to put down on a home, compared with a smaller deposit of 19% required at the start of 2014.

London surveyors have the lowest expectations in the UK for house price growth over the next 12 months, typically putting the percentage increase at 1.9%.

Across the UK generally, prices are predicted to increase by 2.6% over the next year. The highest price growth expectations were found in East Anglia, where surveyors expect an average annual increase of 4.3%.

In Northern Ireland, where the house price recovery tends to have lagged behind the rest of the UK, surveyors are expecting prices to edge up by 2.5% over the next 12 months, while in Wales the figure is 2.1% and in Scotland surveyors expect to see prices increase by 3.3%.

Rics said that despite the number of new properties coming onto the market across the country showing an overall increase for two months in a row, the supply of homes to choose from remains "very tight", meaning that in general, the momentum for price increases is likely to remain "robust".

Stricter mortgage lending rules came into force at the end of April. The new Mortgage Market Review (MMR) rules force lenders to carry out more detailed checks into a borrowers spending habits.

Earlier this week, the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) described the MMR effect as more "gentle dampener than hard brake" - but Rics said the new rules have been "widely cited" by its members for "at the very least, slowing the pace at which new loans are being sanctioned".

Rics said that even if the impact of the MMR proves to be just temporary - as lenders become used to the rules, there are other factors to consider which may have a more lasting impact on where the market goes from here.

It said that the affordability of a home is currently "stretched particularly, but not exclusively in London".

A report from Halifax released earlier this month found that average UK house prices now equate to more than five times wages for the first time since summer 2008.

Added to this stretched affordability, there has been much recent talk of interest rates rising and the impact this will have on borrowers.

Rics said another factor is the talk coming from the Bank of England, which has "gone out of its way to engineer a change of mood through a series of high profile verbal interventions and warnings, particularly in relation to the London market".

The Bank recently announced new mortgage lending curbs, saying that loans of 4.5 times a borrower's income or higher should account for no more than 15% of new mortgages issued by lenders.

Rics' latest report adds to a series of studies which point towards a slowing in the pace of the housing market recovery. Last month, property analyst Hometrack said there has been "a rapid cool down in the London market".

Hometrack said the property market often runs in "mini cycles", lasting for a couple of years, which tend to be strongly influenced by buyer sentiment. It said the cycle the market is currently experiencing started around spring 2013.

Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at Rics, said: "The shift in the mood music amongst potential buyers in the London market has been particularly pronounced, but that its in a sense consistent with the move to a more sustainable market in the capital.

"Elsewhere in the country, the market in general is showing a greater degree of resilience, but that largely reflects the fact that in some areas the recovery has only recently taken hold and affordability is rather less stretched.

"Significantly, members now expect price gains over the next year to be faster outside of the capital than in it."

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said: " The housing market has turned the corner, but mortgage lending activity in the housing market and loan-to-value ratios on new mortgage lending remain below their historic averages.

"Relative to earnings, median house prices across England are around the same level they were in 2005.

"The sector is clearly moving in the right direction, but there is still more to do, and improving the housing market will continue to be a vital part of our long-term economic plan."

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