The number of people out of work continued to fall during the first part of the year, providing a further boost to the housing market.
Unemployment dropped by 77,000 during the three months to the end of February, compared with the previous quarter, as the UK’s economy continued to recover.
There was also a 1.7 per cent jump in pay and bonuses during the three months, compared with a year earlier, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The rise marked the first time that pay growth has outstripped Consumer Price Inflation since the three months to April 2010, meaning wages are once again rising in real terms.
The figures are good news for the property market, with house prices traditionally rising during periods of high employment, as people feel confident about moving up the property ladder.
High levels of employment also mean people are less likely to be forced to sell their homes or have them repossessed because they are struggling to pay their mortgage after losing their job.
Overall, the ONS said a total of 30.39 million people were employed in the three months to February 2014, 691,000 more than during the same period a year earlier.
There was also an increase in the total of weekly hours worked, with this measure rising to 973 million during the three months.
The number of people who were unemployed dropped to 2.24 million, 77,000 lower than in the previous quarter and 320,000 below the figure for a year earlier.
The fall pushed the unemployment rate down to 6.9 per cent of the labour force, compared with 7.9 per cent a year earlier, but still above the level of 5.2 per cent seen in late 2007/early 2008.
Rising employment and lower inflation helped households’ optimism about their financial situation reach a record high during April.
The Markit Household Finance Index climbed to its highest level during the month since the survey was first launched in February 2009.
The group’s workplace activity measure and job security index were also both at or close to record highs, while household spending increased for the second month running, as consumers felt increasingly confident.
Jack Kennedy, senior economist at Markit, said: “Falling inflation delivered a boost to UK households in April, resulting in the best sentiment towards their financial situation since the start of the survey over five years ago.
“A long-awaited return to rising real wages is likely to boost consumer spending as we move through 2014, adding another piece to the jigsaw of the UK’s economic recovery.”
Today’s figures come the day after the ONS reported average UK house price had hit a new record high.
The typical cost of a home had soared by 9.1 per cent during the year to the end of February, to stand at £253,000 – a £20,000 gain during the past year.
The London property market continued to power ahead, with prices in the capital surging by 17.7 per cent during the year to stand at £458,000.
Ever since the start of the recession estate agents have noted an uptick in demand for smallholdings. City dwellers, it seems, are fed up of congestion and pollution. Thoroughly freaked out by endless food safety scandals and economic ructions what they want to do is go back to the land.
A smallholding is defined as a country property with enough land – usually between five and 50 acres – to grow food and rear livestock.
Some smallholders simply want to supplement their diet with home-grown produce others are also hoping to earn an income.
Rupert Sweeting, head of the country department at Knight Frank believes years of food scares – most recently the “horse burger” scandal – are driving people to consider growing their own.
“There is more interest in smallholdings because more people want to know what they are eating, where it comes from and where it is sourced,” he said.
“These people are looking for the rural idyll – they want to live the good life,” added Richard Liddiard, head of rural agency at Carter Jonas. “It is very much a lifestyle purchase though – realistically you cannot make a living out of this much land.”
This means that many smallholders are either early retirees with enough funds to subsidise their hobby farm, or families in which at least one person has a regular day job to help subsidise the good life.
And although buyers are unlikely to be able to earn a full salary they may well be able to earn pin money from anything from raising rare breed cattle, to breeding alpaca for their wool, or keeping honey bees. As climate change takes a hold it may also be that small scale vineyards become more popular.
The cost of buying this sort of property varies dramatically.
Sweeting estimates that a four or five bedroom house with 10 acres of land would cost from around £1m to £1.5m in the Home Counties, dropping down to around £250,000 in rural Scotland.
But whatever you pay for a smallholding, Liddiard is confident that it will be a good investment. “Land values are going only upwards,” he said. “In 2005 we thought that £3,000 to £3,500 per acre was a good price – now the average is about £10,000 per acre. Land has proved to be one of the safest and most secure assets you can have.”
There are also other potential financial benefits to taking on a small agricultural holding.
If you earn an income, even if it is small, from the land then your land and property may be exempt or partially exempt from inheritance tax – although, of course, all cases are different and advice from a suitably qualified tax expert will be needed.
Renting a smallholding is a trickier situation in part because, says Sweeting, there are very few small farms available to let in the first place.
Even if you do find one Liddiard warns that renting as a long term plan can end in heartache. “What if you spend three or four years setting it all up and then the landlord gives you notice to quit and the dream is shattered?” he asked.
Sweeting says most people rent smallholdings as a sensible short term experiment to test whether they enjoy the lifestyle before taking the plunge. “And why wouldn’t they,” he said. “It is a wonderful way of life.”
Properties for sale and to let:
1. Get away from it all in a lovely five bedroom farmhouse in Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, on the market for £1,475 per month. The property has four acres of paddocks, perfect for small scale livestock breeding or horses.
2. Keep a herd of alpacas at this four bedroom cottage in Kilcot, Newent, on the market for £1,650 per month. The property comes with three acres of land.
3. Smallholdings don’t have to be quaint. The current owners of eco-friendly Huf House in Andover, Hampshire, on the market for £2.75m, keep poultry, sheep and pigs.
4. Historic house in Matlock, Derbyshire, for £985,000, with 20 acres ripe for a hobby farmer.
Property values hit a new record high during February as house price growth continued to accelerate, Government figures showed today.
The average cost of a home increased by 9.1 per cent during the year to the end of February, up from an annual rate of 6.8 per cent in January, and the highest level of year-on-year growth since June 2010.
There was also a strong jump in February itself, with property prices rising by 1.9 per cent during the month.
The gain pushed average house prices in the UK up to £253,000 – a £20,000 increase compared with the same month of 2013, and the highest level ever recorded by the Office for National Statistics.
London continued to drive the rest of the property market, with average prices 17.7 per cent higher in the capital than they had been a year earlier to stand at £458,000.
The South East and the East saw the next strongest gains at 8 per cent and 7.7 per cent respectively, although this was less than half the level of growth seen in London.
Once London and the South East were stripped out, house prices across the rest of the UK edged ahead by 5.8 per cent during the 12 months.
But despite the slower rate of growth outside of the south, all regions of the UK posted positive house price inflation during the 12 months to the end of February.
In England, growth outside of the south was fastest in the East Midlands at 7.6 per cent, while it was slowest in the North East with prices 2.9 per cent higher than they had been a year earlier.
The average cost of a home rose by 5.3 per cent year-on-year in Wales, while property values were 2.8 per cent higher in Northern Ireland and 2.4 per cent up in Scotland.
But despite the increases, the average cost of a home in Northern Ireland is still 50.2 per cent below the pre-crisis peak reached in August 2007.
Typical prices in Scotland and Wales are also lower at 6.8 per cent and 2.4 per cent below the peaks reached in 2008 respectively.
But while the recent strong gains are good news for existing homeowners, they are bad news for first-time buyers.
This group paid an average of 10.5 per cent more for their first home than people getting on to the property ladder had a year earlier, at an average of £192,000.
Today’s data is the latest in a raft of strong figures on the property market.
Nationwide said house prices rose for the fifthteenth consecutive month in March, while Halifax said annual house price inflation was rising at its fastest rate for nearly six-and-a-half years.
“Confidence among aspiring buyers has seen an uplift from a more prosperous economy, a more accessible mortgage market and rejuvenated jobs environment.”
But fears that a bubble may be building up in the market were eased by Bank of England figures showing that the number of mortgages approved for house purchase actually dipped slightly during February.
We all know that moving house is rated as one of the most stressful experiences, but hopefully it is a lot more fun than other worrisome events such as the loss of a job or divorce. Like so many tasks, the art lies in good preparation. Use these beautiful spring months to maximize your selling potential during spring or to prepare for the post summer holiday high, writes Caroline Knight and Karin Hawkes.
The air is full of promise and your front garden can direct viewers to your door like a welcome smile.
Of course, you’ll find that time is short as there is so much to do. So spare a moment from your busy schedule to visit your local nursery or garden centre to buy some colourful, instant bedding in order to entice your prospective purchaser. But do make sure that all risk of frost has passed before planting outside.
Here are 10 seasonal tips which will brighten up the picture that your property presents to visitors:
- Remove spent bulbs from tubs and planters. They can be stored ready to take to your new property, or planted in a space within the garden.
- Replace them with colour and, if possible, scent. Place containers by entrances and exits to give a welcoming lift.
- Plant Alchemilla (Lady’s Mantle) for its fresh green foliage and tiny yellow-green flowers, between anemones, pansies, tulips and later flowering Daffodils.
- Plant Petunias and Lobelia in part shade or sun – they will bloom all summer long.
- Bring the garden into the house and echo the same colours, using cut flowers on windowsills that can be seen from the road.
- Keep on top of the weeds and consider applying a mulch to save you some much-needed time.
- Mow your lawn regularly, gradually moving the blades downwards towards a lower setting.
- Even more importantly, trim the edges to give a crisp appearance and to emphasise the shape.
- Check your seats and benches. Your prospective buyer would like to envisage sitting comfortably in your garden. If that pigeon has left a mess you might need to get out the scrubbing brush or even give your furniture a lick of paint.
- Remember, you wouldn’t attend a job interview without looking in the mirror. So make sure your house is appealing from the street. Drive past your house and check what buyers will see from their car.
This five bedroom Cornish property has a well-presented front garden that contains a pleasing blend of shape, colour and form. It also conveys a sense of individuality and the palm gives it an exotic atmosphere. The strategically placed pots at the rear create an interesting foreground to a stunning seaside backdrop. We also love the fresh flowers indoors. Because the gardens are well maintained it gives the impression that the property is easy to look after.
Caroline Knight and Karin Hawkes are passionate about the beneficial impact that outdoor space can have on a property. An effective garden, courtyard or even parking space can not only provide considerable charm but also offer enormous benefits for occupants of homes of all sizes – from the tiniest, diminutive dwelling to the most expansive country estate. This is why it is essential to make the most of your outside space before putting your property on the market. Their design and maintenance service, Kerb Appeal South East, seeks to enable sellers to enhance their properties with the minimum of fuss and upheaval, thereby maximising the selling potential of any home.
With rising interest rates looming are you considering this option that could save thousands of pounds?
With house prices rising and an interest rate increase looming on the horizon, is this a good time to consider remortgaging?
The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee has indicated that it may begin raising interest rates from their record low of 0.5 per cent early next year as Britain’s economic recovery continues to power ahead.
Bank Governor Mark Carney recently said the official cost of borrowing could reach 3 per cent by 2017 – adding £208 a month to a £100,000 mortgage.
Unsurprisingly, the cost of fixed rate mortgages has already begun to creep up in anticipation of a future hike in the Bank Rate.
The average rate for a two-year fixed rate deal is now 3.65 per cent, up from 3.52 per cent in January, which was the lowest rate since Moneyfacts began tracking the data in 2008.
More significantly, two-year swap rates – upon which fixed rate mortgages are based – have nearly doubled during the past year, rising from 0.63 per cent in April 2013 to 1.08 per cent now.
A similar pattern has emerged for five-year fixed rate deals, with average rates rising from 3.92 per cent at the start of the year to 4.04 per cent now, while swaps have risen from 0.99 per cent to 2.06 in the past year.
Adrian Anderson, director of Anderson Harris, said: “Now is still a good time to consider re-mortgaging as long term fixes are still incredibly cheap, but fixed rates have started to increase over the past few weeks and I think will continue to do so.”
Moneyfacts has Clydesdale Bank’s two-year fixed rate deal as its current best buy.
The bank is charging interest of 3.89 per cent for people borrowing up to 90 per cent of their home’s value, with no fee, free legals for remortgage customers and a £500 rebate.
For those with more equity in their home, Norwich & Peterborough Building Society has a two-year deal of 2.04 per cent with a £345 fee for those borrowing up to 65 per cent of their property’s value.
The Post Office is offering a rate of 3.25 per cent fixed for five years, with no fee, to those with a 25 per cent equity stake.
Richard Sexton, director of e.surv chartered surveyors, said: “I think it is a good time to remortgage.
“The likelihood is that rates will start going up over the next 12 months, so if you can lock into a deal that works for you for the next two to three years, you will be likely to be better off.”
His comments follow a significant rise in house prices during the past year, with the average cost of a home in England now standing at £259,745, according to Zoopla.
Mr Sexton added: “People who previously perhaps could not remortgage because the loan to value was too high for the lenders probably can now.
“Other people may be able to remortgage at a lower loan to value, and if they were previously at a threshold, they could find that they can benefit from a better rate.”
But while it is clearly a good time to remortgage, the decision may be less clear cut for people who are on some of the very low tracker rates taken out before the credit crisis struck.
Mr Sexton said: “People have to weigh up whether they want to benefit from these rates for as long as possible, versus having a degree of certainty about mortgage repayments.
“If it is important to have certainty, even if it means moving to a slightly higher rate, it allows you to plan.”
He added that people weighing up whether to take out a lower rate tracker product now or a higher rate fixed rate deal had to make a similar decision.
He said: “The concern I would have is that we have got so used to low interest rates, people may get caught out by rate rises. There are people now with mortgages who have never experienced a rate rise.”