The average home is now worth around £25,000 more than it was last year as UK house prices have surged. Despite the stamp duty holiday coming to an end, why is demand still so high for property?
This month’s house price index from Rightmove marked a momentous occasion for the market. UK house prices have risen in every region and in all market sectors (such as first-time buyers and home-movers), in what the property portal has labelled a “full house”. This is the first time this has happened since pre-financial crisis in March 2007.
The results also show the biggest monthly property price rise since October 2015. The average home coming to market was priced at 1.8% (+£5,983) higher in October than in September. The average asking price this month, says Rightmove, was £344,445, and this is also 6.5% higher than this time last year.
UK house prices aside, Rightmove’s data also demonstrates an ongoing strong appetite for property. Sales numbers were up 15.2% in September when compared to what is described as a “normal market” in 2019 before the pandemic. There were also more new properties coming to market in September compared to the summer months.
Is now a good time to buy?
According to the index, the strong fundamentals of the current housing market mean there is an ideal window of opportunity to buy.
Mortgage interest rates remain at an all-time low, although many expect rates to rise in the relatively near future. The Bank of England base rate has held at 0.1% since March 2020. Lenders are also “keen to lend” while the market remains competitive. This is coupled with strong employment and wage growth as the economy pulls up, so buyers will find it a good time to secure borrowing on a property.
According to Tim Bannister, Rightmove’s director of property data, 2021 has been the year of the “power buyer”. Competition for property has been hot as stock levels have remained low. This has meant that those in a position to proceed quickly, either with a mortgage ready or cash in the bank, have been higher up the pecking order.
“Whilst available stock for sale is still close to record lows, there are signs that this has stopped falling and is
stabilising this month, so fresh new choice is slowly growing,” he adds. As we approach Christmas, when activity traditionally dies down, some determined buyers may find competition has slowed and it is easier to secure a deal.
UK house prices: what do other indices say?
As we always point out, monthly house price indices are a great indication of market trends, but should always be taken lightly as they can fluctuate. It is more effective to look at the bigger picture and watch trends over a longer period of time.
To make a comparison, the Office for National Statistics has just released its UK house prices index for the month, too. The ONS uses sales figures to form its index, while Rightmove uses asking prices. While both are valid methods, it is important to note their differences.
In October’s house price index from the ONS, sold prices increased by a huge 10.9% in the 12 months to August. It puts the average UK property price now at £264,000. In England specifically, this figure is now £281,000.
The stamp duty holiday has played a big part in buoying prices, although appetite was still strong even as the tax break came to an end.
Iain McKenzie, chief executive of the Guild of Property Professionals, said: “The number of properties available to buy started to dwindle after the first lockdown and this trend looks set to continue while demand remains high.
“Just as the end of the stamp duty holiday motivated a frenzy to buy, predictions of impending mortgage rate rises are also likely to spur on buyers.”
While mortgage interest rates rising would of course have a big impact on many buyers, it won’t affect everyone. Cash buyers will still be free to take their pick of the market without being affected by interest rate changes. However, it will be an incentive to many, investors and homebuyers alike, to purchase their next property sooner rather than later.