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House prices held steady in August with a 0.1 per cent month-on-month increase, according to the Halifax. However, Jeremy Leaf, principal of Jeremy Leaf & Co, told BBC News that the data offered a ‘mixed message’: ‘Prices are rising more slowly on a monthly basis but accelerating when annualised,’ he said. He expanded further in The Mirror: ‘What we are finding on the ground is a market largely stuck in neutral – shortage of stock is supporting modest price increases, particularly outside London. There is an opportunity now for serious sellers to take advantage of increased buyer activity, which we have already encountered, as many return from holidays keen to make decisions about property and move before Christmas if possible.’ He told The Guardian: ‘Both buyers and sellers need to come to terms with new market realities.’
Homeowners flocked to secure cheap remortgage deals ahead of the Bank of England’s interest rate hike this summer. Discussing the UK Finance findings with This is Money, Jeremy Leaf said: ‘The level of remortgaging is not surprising given the imminent and well-signposted rise in interest rates. However, what is of more concern is that although their numbers are rising, first-time buyers have been unable to take advantage of the reduction in buy-to-let activity.’
Bank of England governor Mark Carney suggested that leaving the EU without a deal would lead to a 35 per cent drop in house prices. Jeremy Leaf told The Express: ‘Crashing out of Brexit without a deal gives us the worst of all worlds. It will play on people’s confidence and make things even more difficult for the housing market. Everything will come together and conspire in what is already a falling market and people won’t know what to expect so will sit on their hands, which will make things even worse.’
London house prices plunged to their lowest rate of growth in nearly a decade in July, according to the Office for National Statistics. Jeremy Leaf told City AM that the figures reflect ‘the market as it was in the summer months – since buyers and sellers have returned from their summer breaks, there has been a little more enthusiasm to sell homes than we have seen for a while’. He explained further in The Metro: ‘It is still hard to gain commitment from buyers because property needs to differentiate itself from the competition in order to attract interest.’
HMRC figures showed that the number of UK properties being bought and sold fell by an annual 2.6 per cent in August as financial barriers such as stamp duty put people off moving. Jeremy Leaf told The Daily Mail: ‘These numbers show that the patient is in reasonable health and has taken the interest rate medicine in its stride, showing activity holding up reasonably well and even progressing marginally compared with previous months. The market enters the important autumn period with reasonable confidence, not expecting any great changes either way. On the high street, we have noticed more interest in buying and selling, although we are finding it hard for deals to gain traction unless there is realism on all sides.’