UK property prices fall in April and could soften further ahead of EU vote

Taylor Scott International News

Property prices in the UK fell by 0.8% in April and annual house price growth eased to 9.2%, taking the average price to £212,321, the latest index data shows. The figures from lender, the Halifax, also show that house prices in the three months from February to April were 1.5% higher than the preceding three months. Martin Ellis, Halifax housing economist, pointed out that both the quarterly and annual price rates are at their lowest since November 2015. ‘Current market conditions remain very tight as the severe imbalance between supply and demand persists. This situation, combined with low interest rates and rising employment and real earnings, should continue to push house prices up over the coming months,’ he said. ‘Weakening sentiment regarding house price prospects and a dip in consumer confidence, however, suggest that annual house price growth may ease,’ he added. The 0.8% between March and April, combined with February’s 1.5% fall has offset March’s 2.2% gain. But according to Ellis monthly house price changes can be volatile and he pointed out that the quarter on quarter change is a more reliable indicator of the underlying trend. Confidence in the UK housing market is at its lowest level in over a year, according to the latest quarterly Halifax Housing Market Confidence Tracker. The latest fall continues the downward trend since a high point in May 2015, and comes as consumers feel increasingly uncertain about the wider economy. Nonetheless, a clear majority of 65% still believe that average UK property prices will be higher rather than lower 12 months from now, double the 32% found when the Tracker was launched five years ago in April 2011. Jonathan Hopper, managing director of the buying agents Garrington Property Finders, believes that double digit annual price rises are unlikely to return any time soon but the cooling of the market may mark an opportunity for buyers, as some sellers are being forced to reassess their overly ambitious asking prices. ‘For the first time in more than a year, we’re seeing many mid-range properties in the most desirable locations selling for below asking price, hinting that the power dynamic is shifting from a seller’s to a buyer’s market,’ he said. ‘But with demand still strong and supply still chronically low, the net effect is likely to be a gradual return to more normal rates of price growth rather than a serious slowdown. With the Halifax also finding that levels of confidence in the housing market have fallen to their lowest level in more than a year, sellers must think urgently about pricing competitively,’ he added. On top of the slightly cooling of the market there is also uncertainty over the referendum on the future of the UK on the European Union on 23 June. Mark Posniak, managing director at Dragonfly Property Finance, thinks prices are likely to edge down further. ‘People are starting to understand the magnitude of the Brexit vote and that will lead many to… Taylor Scott International

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