Thu 15 Jun 2023
Jeremy Leaf, Principal
There was mixed messaging about the housing market with Nationwide reporting that the average UK house price rose by 0.5 per cent in April following seven months of falls. Jeremy Leaf, principal of Jeremy Leaf & Co, told The Evening Standard: ’Not only are lenders being cautious, buyers are also ensuring they have sufficient resources, not only to cover repayment, improvement and other costs, as well as getting the best property deal they can before taking the plunge.’
Meanwhile, Halifax’s survey disagreed with Nationwide’s reporting that prices dipped by 0.3 per cent in April, with those in the south of England and London under the greatest pressure because of affordability concerns among buyers. Jeremy Leaf told City AM: ‘Contrary to other recent housing market surveys, these figures show we cannot be complacent about recovery as cost-of-living and mortgage worries persist, which are making buyers cautious about longer-term commitments unless they see real value.’ He added in The Guardian: 'However, there is no doubt that we are much busier than we were a few months ago and the underlying feeling is that we are over the worst and will continue on a relatively even keel despite some ups and downs along the way.’
Transaction numbers were also down, according to HMRC, with sales plunging by a quarter in April compared with the same month a year earlier. Jeremy Leaf told The Evening Standard: ‘Sales are taking longer and there is not the same urgency as we saw previously.'
However, more historic data from the Bank of England revealed that mortgage approvals for house purchases rose significantly in March, with 52,000 up from 44,100 in February. Jeremy Leaf told Forbes: ‘We regard mortgage approvals as a very useful indicator of future direction of travel for the housing market. Lending was in the doldrums, reflecting the quiet period between the mini-Budget and the end of last year, whereas the approvals figures illustrate that stabilising mortgage rates and inflation is prompting an increase in activity.’
There was more pressure on off-plan sales as they plummeted to the lowest level in a decade. Jeremy Leaf told Mail Online: ‘These findings are not at all surprising as we are heavily involved in the sale of brand new homes and land to put them on. We have noticed a significant change in stance towards the end of last year and into this one as far as buyers and lenders are concerned. As property prices have stopped rising so quickly and economic prospects have become more uncertain, so confidence has taken a hit and off-plan commitment has become increasingly risky, particularly if you don’t know what the value of the property might be when it comes to taking up occupation.’
Should house hunters go for the property that offers the best price per square foot or is there a better way to measure value? Jeremy Leaf told This is Money: ’There is no such thing as the perfect property, even if one has an unlimited budget. It is really a question of choosing a property which comes closest to your needs with regard to location, size, style and condition. Equally, there is not much point in buying a property because it ticks all the boxes if you will be unhappy living in it. First-time buyers also need to be aware of how marketable the property will be when it is re-sold after a few years. Like so many things in life, it is a balance between head and heart.’