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House prices across London may be in widespread decline, according to Rightmove, but prices in Barnet rose 3.6 per cent in the past year. Jeremy Leaf, principal of Jeremy Leaf & Co, told The Evening Standard: ‘The Barnet housing market is performing better than other boroughs partly because of its greater affordability compared with adjoining areas as well as the attractions of the local infrastructure, where education is a big draw. Those selling flats closer to the centre of London because they need more space are finding they can afford larger family houses in Barnet or other London suburbs.’
Property prices fell by 3.1 per cent in April, according to the Halifax, although the lender maintained its estimate of 3 per cent annual price inflation. Jeremy Leaf told The Guardian: ‘We are entering what is supposed to be the busy spring buying season, which tends to set the tone for the rest of the year. More recently, activity and listings have picked up but we are finding the market still quite sensitive and only those prepared to negotiate hard are moving on.’ He explained further in City AM: ‘This is a market of sluggish growth and transactions, despite still showing modest price rises.’
Remortgaging saw a decline over the past year, according to figures from UK Finance, with 32,400 new homeowner mortgages completed in March, 12 per cent fewer than in the same month last year. Jeremy Leaf told The Daily Mail: ‘Remortgaging, which we would have expected to be higher, has fallen whereas new business, which might have been higher, is not so impressive either. The market is continuing its steady progress without a major correction in sight one way or another.’
HMRC figures back up what other surveys are showing: that the housing market continues its sluggish growth, with sales dropping 2.7 per cent in April year-on-year. However, Jeremy Leaf remained upbeat, telling City AM: ‘These numbers show a small increase for April reflecting sales agreed over the past few months, as well as what we’ve found on the high street. We expect more of the same as we enter the spring market, which sets the tone for a steady rather than spectacular rest of the year for activity.’
There was some brighter news as it was reported that mortgage arrears fell to the lowest level for nearly 25 years in the first three months of this year, according to UK Finance. Jeremy Leaf told The Daily Express: ‘These figures are interesting because they show a housing market which, although softening, is unlikely to collapse anytime soon, despite all the doom and gloom we have seen over the past few days in Halifax and RICS data. One of the precursors of a more significant correction in property prices is more forced sales and clearly we are not seeing, or likely to see, that at the moment, particularly while mortgage rates are so low, wages are actually creeping up ahead of inflation and employment numbers remain strong.’