House price growth lowest for 10 months, says Nationwide

Annual house price growth has slowed to the lowest rate in 10 months, according to an index.

Property values increased by 4.4% year on year in November, the weakest annual growth since January when there was also a 4.4% increase, figures from Nationwide Building Society showed.

House prices edged up by 0.1% month on month in November, following a 0% change in October, taking the average property value across the UK to £204,947.

Despite the slowdown, Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, said the latest increase is in line with growth rates seen since early 2015. In October, an annual increase of 4.6% was recorded.

Gardner said: “There are some signs that, despite the uncertain economic outlook, demand conditions have strengthened a little in recent months, reflecting the impact of solid labour market conditions and historically low borrowing costs. Mortgage approvals increased in October, and surveyors report that new buyer inquiries have increased modestly.

“The relatively low number of homes on the market and modest rates of housing construction are likely to keep the demand/supply balance fairly tight in the quarters ahead, even if economic conditions weaken, as most forecasters expect.”

Gardner pointed to data from the Council of Mortgage Lenders showing the popularity of fixed mortgage rates as borrowers lock into ultra-low-rate deals.

He said: “Data from the Council of Mortgage Lenders suggests that over 90% of new mortgages were contracted on fixed rates over the past 12 months. This may be driven by a desire to lock in record low interest rates.

“The proportion of new mortgage lending contracted on fixed rates has increased considerably since the low point in 2010, when less than half of lending was on fixed rates. In recent years, the proportion of lending accounted for by fixed-rate deals has persisted at levels well above those prevailing before the financial crisis.

“Fixed-rate deals are most popular amongst first-time buyers for whom certainty over monthly payments is likely to be particularly important. Indeed, over the past 12 months 95% of new mortgage lending to first-time buyers was on fixed rates.”

Gardner said the average rates on fixed-rate deals have edged down in recent years, adding: “For borrowers with a 10% deposit, two-year fixed rates are currently the lowest on record, at 2.42%.”

Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent and a former residential chairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), said the housing market tends to slow down in the run-up to Christmas.

He said the figures “reflect the struggle between those trying to take advantage of very low interest rates and softening house prices versus those showing caution in view of the economic and political uncertainty. The result is modest house price increases mainly because of the continuing shortage of supply”.

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said: “House prices look likely to rise modestly in the near term.

“However, we suspect that house prices will come under increasing pressure as 2017 progresses and may edge down over the year, possibly by around 2%.”

Archer said a lack of homes on the market would help to keep prices up.

[Source:- theguardian.]