FEBRUARY 2018 PRESS ROUND-UP!Nationwide’s house price survey surprised many, recording that house prices rose by 3.2 per cent in January, the fastest annual rate in ten months. Commenting in The Times, Jeremy Leaf, principal of Jeremy Leaf & Co, said: ‘This uplift is not really surprising to us at all bearing in mind the increase in viewings estate agents are seeing as the market emerges from its winter hibernation.’ He added in The Daily Express: ‘At the sharp end, we have seen an uplift in terms of viewings and more confidence than we dared to expect. Looking forward we have to now make sure as many of those enquiries as possible translate into sales, which will be the real test for the market this year.’
However, Halifax’s house price index was more pessimistic, recording a monthly dip of 0.6 per cent in January, while the annual growth rate slowed to 2.2 per cent. Jeremy Leaf told The Daily Mail: ‘At the sharp end of the market, we’ve noticed better-than-expected viewings but won’t know whether this interest will translate into confirmed sales for the next few weeks at least. Sellers still have to be realistic and particularly recognise the importance of setting sensible asking prices if they are to generate offers.’
It appears increasingly likely that the Bank Rate will rise from 0.5pc to 0.75pc in May. Jeremy Leaf told The Daily Telegraph: ‘An interest rate rise would just be the final straw for a lot of people. It’s not so much the rate itself, but the inference and the direction of travel. A lot of people could start to think: ‘Can I afford to move?’’’
House prices ended last year £12,000 higher on average than they had been 12 months earlier, according to the Office for National Statistics. Jeremy Leaf told The Mirror: ‘The increase in prices for December, albeit at a slowing pace, reflects more the shortage of available property to buy at that time rather than market strength or otherwise, as transaction numbers were relatively low.’ He expanded on these comments in The Evening Standard: ‘Since December we have noticed more balance with a slower increase in instructions and viewings as we would expect at this time of year, although some buyer caution is likely to remain until the market finds its new level this year.’
The 3 percentage point stamp duty surcharge levied on additional property purchases means that if you are buying your first home but have a stake in another property, it is treated as if you are buying a ‘second home’. Jeremy Leaf told The Daily Telegraph: ‘This policy has created a lot of unintended consequences for many buyers.’
Housing transactions are holding steady across Britain, according to HMRC, with prices in the capital growing more slowing than inflation and no faster than wages, at 2.5 per cent in the year to December. Rather than feeling downbeat, Jeremy Leaf told The Times that the figures showed ‘the remarkable resilience’ of the property market.
Mortgage approvals rose in January, according to UK Finance. Jeremy Leaf told The Guardian: ‘The UK Finance numbers are quite encouraging as they bear out what we have been seeing on the ground – in other words, buyers and sellers are getting on with business, albeit at more realistic prices. Certainly we don’t see any signs of fireworks but nor do we see any major corrections in the market either.’