House prices grow 3.7% in August: Halifax

The Halifax House Price Index for September shows that prices increased 3.7 per cent on an annual basis, leaving the average house price at £229,958.

On a monthly basis, growth was low but still positive, at 0.1 per cent as compared to 1.4 per cent from June to July, and in the last three months prices went up 1.9 per cent versus 1.2 per cent with the quarter previous to that.

Halifax managing director Russell Galley says: “While the pace of employment growth has recently slowed, a low unemployment rate and a gradual pickup in wage growth are helping to support household finances. This has been accompanied by interest rates still remaining at a historically low rate and a stable, yet constrained, supply of new homes onto the market further supporting house prices.”

The Halifax research also describes the number of first-time buyers increasing by 3 per cent in the first months of the year (175,500 against 171,200) – the third year in a row that FTBs have numbered more than 150,000. The building society reports that FTBs made up 51 per cent of mortgage financed purchases in 2018 versus 38 per cent a decade ago.

In terms of mortgage approvals, Halifax points out that the Bank of England’s seasonally-adjusted figures that show a 0.9 per cent drop from June to July (64,768) is in tune with the monthly average of the previous year (64,986).

Emoov.co.uk founder and chief executive Russell Quirk says: “The UK property market has certainly been enigmatic over the last year, but it now looks as if a large degree of stability is returning as we start to turn onto the home straight for 2018.”

Yomdel chief executive Andy Soloman comments: “While the road ahead may contain a number of economic and political stumbling blocks for both the UK property market, it seems as if the nation’s home buyers and sellers are finally starting to venture out from their Brexit bomb shelters having realised there is little to deter them from transacting in the short term.”

Housesimple.com chief executive Sam Mitchell adds: “The danger of constantly talking down the property market is that we will talk the market into a crash, particularly if we focus too much on what’s happening in London.

“We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that house prices in the capital have had an astonishing run, and it’s perfectly reasonable and necessary for price growth to slow… what we’re seeing in the capital is not the case across the country in regional property markets, many of which have seen stagnant growth for years since the financial crash in 2008, and are now starting to pick up.”

Meanwhile, James Pendleton head of sales Ewen Bunting strikes a more pessimistic tone: “Robust annual growth is a sure sign the housing market’s iron lung of low supply is at play here… when borrowing is dirt cheap, people still need to move and are still climbing over each other to do so in some instances.

“That’s most true of first-time buyers, whose activity is not far off its pre-crisis peak [190,900 in 2006]. It’s the government’s artificial demand-side stimulants, namely the Help to Buy Scheme and stamp duty relief for first-time buyers, that are causing the annual growth rate to power on at this level.

“In a world that made sense, more people would talk about the housing crisis and the can being kicked down the road… but with so much cheap lending and vote-winning schemes making the dream of home ownership a reality, it’s almost too dangerous for politicians to take the patient off the machine and they know it.”

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