What happens now to UK house prices?

It was only on Friday that I looked at something potentially beneficial for UK house prices which is a Bank of England interest-rate cut. That could come as soon as this week and later in the day markets adjusted to this as the Gilt market rallied and a ten-year yield of 0.86% has been replaced by one of 0.77% this morning. So maybe some cheaper mortgage rates are on their way.

London

This morning the Financial Times has moved onto one of its favourite topics and here it comes.

Agents for high-end London property have reported a bounce in multi-million-pound home sales after Boris Johnson’s election victory. Buying and selling agents said purchasers were committing to buy homes worth up to £50m after the decisive Conservative win provided political clarity. Overseas buyers also want to pre-empt a stamp duty surcharge planned by Mr Johnson’s government.

So even if we allow for some estate agent hype the new government and the prospect of some Brexit certainty does seem to have had a impact. We also got some more specific details.

Camilla Dell, founder of the buying agency Black Brick, said many of her clients had waited to exchange contracts until after the vote, including one buying a £3.8m newly built apartment in St John’s Wood. She said most of her company’s pipeline of £50m in home purchases would now proceed quickly. “They all want to get on and exchange, and not just because of potential stamp duty changes. A more confident market will make sellers more bullish on price,” she said.

Actually when we look at the next quote £50 million can go quite quickly.

Trevor Abrahmsohn, managing director of Glentree International — which specialises in super-prime north London homes — said an Asian buyer had committed on Friday to buying a £28m home and another purchaser to spending £5m on a property. “This is a shot of adrenalin in a market that was comatose,” he said.

So far you may note that these are commitments relying on estate agent’s word rather than actual purchases. To be fair it is so soon after the election that actual purchases are unlikely. But there does seem to be something going on as the often reliable Henry Pryor has tweeted this.

I’ve got a dozen clients looking for new homes with £25m between them bit.ly/35scLtK plus a group of others with a pot of £50m for post-Election, pre-Brexit, pre-Budget opportunities.

If we ask the Carly Simon question which is Why? We see that there are some factors at play. The settled election result is one although I note that Henry Pryor seems dubious about this concept.

 I even heard of deals going through with a ‘Corbyn clause’ where the contracts could be rescinded if Labour got in . .

Also there is this.

In November the Conservatives pledged to charge overseas buyers an additional 3 per cent of the purchase price in stamp duty when they buy homes in England. This would add to an existing 3 per cent surcharge for buyers of second and additional homes.

The Asian buyer above should he/she exist would have to pay an extra £840,000 which feels eye-watering.

Context

Whilst there is no doubt some hype in the above there is probably something going on. However there is a catch as it faces quite a lot of extra supply in central London. For example I went for a run yesterday and passed through the Battersea Power Station site where there is a large advert for Battersea Roof Garden with 600 flats being built. The roof garden is a nice touch but the description of “much needed green space” raises a smile once you know it is about 100 years from Battersea Park.

Added to this is the rest of the Nine Elms development and the Qatari development on Chelsea Bridge Road. Of course there is bias here as the main developments are in my area but the scale of them is significant and will require what are at those prices a significant number of purchasers as time passes.

Builders Share Prices

It would seem that investors on Friday were mulling a new version of Help To Buy.

In early trading, Taylor Wimpey shares rose 15% to 200p, while Barratt Developments and Berkeley Homes both registered rises of 13%, taking their share prices to 755p and 5,084p respectively.

Persimmon and Bellway were up 11%, to 2,784p and 3,086p, while Bovis and Redrow saw their stocks rise by 9% to 1,363p and 746p respectively. ( Building Magazine)

So there may be some support from that looking ahead. Whilst many developments in central London are too expensive to qualify some studio flats are priced within its range.

Rightmove

They have also joined the fray today.

LONDON (Reuters) – Asking prices for British houses fell this month by the smallest amount for any December since 2006, a survey showed on Monday, pointing to some upside for a housing market subdued by Brexit and election uncertainty.

Rightmove said asking prices, which are not seasonally adjusted, fell by 0.9% on a monthly basis after a bigger-than-normal 1.3% drop in November.

Indeed they go further with this.

Rightmove forecasts a 2% rise in asking prices in 2020.

That is a fascinating conclusion for an organisation which thinks this!

“With much of the political uncertainty removed, we expect that the number of properties for sale will recover as more new sellers come to market, making up some of this year’s lost ground,” Rightmove director Miles Shipside said.

So more sellers will lead to higher prices. Really?

Comment

The media seem to be starting something of a campaign on this front as even the i newspaper was on the case on Friday.

Property experts now expect those who have been holding off to go back to doing deals potentially driving house prices up.

“Expect a sharp uplift in transaction levels starting early in 2020, as buyers and sellers who have played it safe put their plans into motion,“ said Andrew Montlake, managing director of mortgage broker Coreco, adding that a ”huge amount“ of pent-up demand out there looks set to be unleashed on the market next year.

They should introduce Mr.Montlake to Rightmove as his “huge amount” of buyers could meet all their sellers.

However some factors have been in play all along. For example if you trusted the polls and bought UK property when the UK Pound £ was at US $1.19 and various FT journalists were saying on social media it was going lower you now have a solid return ( US $1.33. It will vary between foreign buyers as to how strong the exchange rate influence is but for some it will be major. Asian buyers may note that against the Japanese Yen there has been a rally from 127 to 146 already.

Thus my conclusion is that any rally in UK house prices will require more government and Bank of England intervention/ Otherwise we are on a road to nowhere with possible falls. I welcome that as with real wages rising finally affordability is heading in the right direction.

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