Home-owner confidence sets the scene for higher prices in 2016

Christmas-trimmings

  • Smallest drop since 2011 in new seller asking prices (-1.3%) during seasonal November slowdown, indicative of even higher prices next year
  • Rightmove research reveals home-owners’ confident property outlook for 2016:

– 85% of home-owners expect their financial situation to get better (41%) or stay the same (44%) over the next year, unfazed by the risk of higher interest rates

– Seven in ten home-owners think house prices will be more expensive in the next 12 months, despite an average increase of 6.2% (+£16,969) in the past year

  • Bank of England policy not to use interest rates as a tool to control the housing market plus their forecasts of real wage growth and low base rates suggests those buying in 2016 will be paying a higher price
  • Bargain-hunting buyers advised to stay active in December and potential new year sellers should come to market early to take advantage of the surge of Christmas and Boxing Day window shopping for homes

 

Sellers who come to market in the run-up to Christmas typically set lower asking prices as buyers are harder to attract at this time of year. However, this November’s price-dip of 1.3% (-£3,977) is much less marked than usual, and is the smallest seen at this time of year since 2011. This indicates a positive underlying outlook for the year ahead among home-owners, with research by Rightmove showing them to be in a confident mood and largely unfazed by the risk of higher interest rates in 2016. Given these findings, and the likelihood that demand will continue to outstrip supply, prices look set to increase again in many locations in 2016. Rightmove’s full 2016 house price forecast will be released in next month’s House Price Index, on Monday 14th December.

Rightmove director and housing market analyst Miles Shipside says:
“New-to-the-market sellers have dropped their asking prices at this time of year for the last eight years, with an average drop of 1.9% over the last five years. Those looking to market their property as Christmas gets closer often have a greater sense of urgency to find a buyer and sensibly recognise that trimming their asking price will provide an incentive to potential buyers more focussed on seasonal Christmas trimmings. Buoyant market conditions and a confident outlook for 2016 mean that the reduction, while no-doubt welcome to hard-pressed buyers, is the most Scrooge-like since 2011! It’s likely to be a short-lived respite as the combination of high confidence and low interest rates is a recipe for higher prices next year.”

High home-owner confidence is demonstrated by Rightmove research, with a sample size of over 23,000, which reveals that the majority (85%) don’t think their financial situation will worsen in the next year. Despite the possibility of a 2016 rate rise that could increase mortgage repayments for many, 41% of home-owners said they thought their household’s financial situation would get better over the next 12 months. Another 44% said things would stay the same, with only 15% forecasting they would get worse. The majority (69%) were also of the opinion that property would continue to rise in price over the next 12 months, with only 7% expecting prices to be lower.

Shipside observes:

“While confidence can be fragile, it is currently riding high. It seems that most home-owners are not worried by the risk of 2016 rate rises, with only one in seven thinking their financial situation will deteriorate. Home-owners have had a smooth ride over the past six or so years with a half-a-percent base rate, so you would think that more might have concerns about the extra drain on their financial resources when the base rate inevitably goes up. Whether in 2016 or early 2017, a rise won’t come as a surprise as an increase has been well-trailed. Indeed, competitiveness among lenders means some of the possible effects of rate rises for both home-owners and movers will be softened, and buyers’ ability to afford higher interest rates is already built into the current tighter lending criteria. Many recent buyers will also be shielded as they are locked into fixed rates, so the shock of the first rise for over six years will be a delayed one.”

The positive home-owner outlook will be influenced by the prospect of real wage growth out-stripping consumer price inflation (CPI) and aiding stretched buyer affordability. The latest Bank of England Inflation Report stated ‘Confidence is firm, real income growth this year is expected to be the strongest since the crisis’. However, a deputy governor has recently re-affirmed that interest rates are ‘not a tool to be used to control the housing market’. While long-term low interest rates have provided the necessary environment for wider economic recovery, from a property market perspective they are a double-edged sword. Investors keep seeing the prospect of higher rates on their cash getting further postponed. Agents report them looking to property as part of their quest for better returns, adding to upwards price pressure. In addition, low borrowing costs and reduced stamp duty enable some potential owner-occupiers to pay more, which further contributes to higher prices.

Shipside adds:

“Long-term low interest rates are typically a trigger for activity and price rises in the property market while other parts of the economy are less susceptible to such an incentive. The spur of cheap money (if you’ve got your credit rating in good order) helps buyers to pay the asking price or outbid the competition for their ideal home. It all fuels demand for property as evidenced by Rightmove traffic up in October by 23% year-on-year.”

Advice for bargain-hunting buyers and early-bird sellers:

Buyers keen to find their ideal home and looking to negotiate a relative bargain are advised to keep shopping for houses in the days before Christmas, at a time when competition from other buyers is typically less.

Shipside suggests:

“When other prospective buyers are taking a house-hunting break and are busy shopping for Christmas, a keen seller will be happy to see you and a lack of any other bids will make yours seem more appealing. With this year’s sellers’ market looking likely to continue into next year, there is a small window of opportunity to be ahead of some of your buyer competition.”

Home-owners looking to come to market soon after New Year’s Day should contemplate acting slightly earlier given that buyer searches on Rightmove ramp up from Christmas Day.

Shipside advises:

“There’s a huge peak in the number of people home-hunting on Rightmove on Boxing Day, and last year there were over 1 million visits on Christmas day itself. It’s highly unlikely you’ll want prospective buyers to come round to have a look while you’re tucking into turkey or leftovers between Christmas and New Year, but being earlier to market means you won’t get left out of this surge in buyer interest if being an early-moving bird is your New Year resolution.”


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