The housing market showed signs of cooling during May as tough new lending conditions came into force, research showed today.
The number of homes being put up for sale fell for the fifth month in a row, but demand from potential buyers also eased, taking some of the pressure off prices.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said the shortage of homes on the market, combined with the introduction of tough new lending rules appeared to be “stemming the tide” of perspective buyers.
Across the country, new buyer enquiries rose at their slowest rate since February 2013.
The group added that in London, where there has been most concern that a bubble may be building up in the market, demand from buyers actually fell for the first time since June 2012.
May was the first full month since the Mortgage Market Review, under which lenders impose tighter affordability criteria on borrowers, came into force.
RICS said it was hard to “disentangle” the new rules from other factors that were impacting the market and to know whether they were simply having a temporary affect while lenders adjusted to the new environment.
“In particular, we’re seeing the London market level off”
But it added that respondents reported that banks were lending less, with average loan-to-value ratios among first time buyers dropping to 85.3 per cent from 86 per cent in April.
Unsurprisingly, the fall in demand impacted on surveyors’ expectations for prices, with them now anticipating growth of 3.6 per cent during the coming 12 months – the lowest level since December 2013.
They are also expecting a significant slow down in activity, with only 29 per cent more surveyors in the South East predicting greater activity in the coming three months, down from 66 per cent more six months ago, while in the South West the balance dropped to 48 per cent from 93 per cent.
RICS said the tightening in mortgage lending conditions even led to a modest pick up in demand for rental property, with average rents now expected to rise by 2.5 per cent during the next 12 months, and at an annual rate of 4 per cent during the coming five years.
Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist, said: “What we are really seeing is some of the very strong upward momentum starting to come off the housing market, as a lack of supply, higher prices, more prudent lending measures and some of the talk from the Bank of England are creating a level of caution among sellers and buyers.
“The most visible indicators of this are the revised downwards price expectations for the next 12 months and the flatter picture regarding new buyer enquiries. In particular, we’re seeing the London market level off.”
As the recession slowly eases its grip billions of pounds of money is pouring into regeneration projects across Britain, many of which remained on the drawing board during the recession.
Buying a home in an area in line for serious improvements is one of the surest ways to make a good property investment. The downside, of course, is that most of these areas are by definition currently a work in progress and buyers will need to be patient if they are to reap the benefits of massive regeneration.
That being said one of Britain’s most exciting regeneration programmes is Wirral Waters, Birkenhead, a £4.5bn redevelopment of the city’s currently disused docks.
This is a monster of a scheme which will eventually include offices, shops, bars and restaurants, plus up to 15,000 new homes in towers of up to a reported 50 stories. Such vast projects do not happen overnight and it is currently unclear when The Peel Group, which has planning consent for its 30 year project, will begin.
However, Mark Heaton, associate partner at the Clive Watkin Partnership, points out that the city is still feeling the ill effects of seven years of economic misery.
It means two bedroom terraced houses on the fringes of the Wirral Waters scheme currently sell from as little as £40,000 – often to investors since few buyers want to live on the edges of a currently derelict zone.
“If it is turned into our Canary Wharf or Salford Quays it will be fantastic,” said Heaton. “But it will take a long, long time.”
A safer bet is the leafy suburb of Oxton Village, a couple of miles from the docks but a world away in terms of lifestyle. Here you could pay around £500,000 for a fine Victorian villa with six-plus bedrooms, or from around £90,000 for a two bedroom flat.
Another scheme well worth watching is the Clyde Gateway in Glasgow, a £2.7m scheme centred on the site of this year’s Commonwealth Games. It will regenerate a swathe of the east end of the city, including Bridgeton, Dalmarnock, Rutherglen and Shawfield, meaning homes in these currently undervalued areas could make a fantastic investment.
The 20 year project will include a new suburb on the site of the athletes’ village
Property in Glasgow currently costs an average £156,803 up 4.47 per cent in the last year.
A recent study by Slater Hogg & Howison says the city’s market is strengthening with homes selling faster and closer to asking price than they have for seven years.
“The recovery in the Glasgow housing market is rooted in the return of the first time buyer and the confidence they bring to the rest of the market,” said Michael Luck, managing director of Slater Hogg & Howison.
“The Scottish Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme which launched in September 2013 has added to this growing sense of confidence. In the first three months of the scheme, it accounted for one in 12 sales of new property in Scotland. The scheme has been well received with one in four new properties for sale in Glasgow under £400,000 available through the scheme.”
Meanwhile, massive investment (to the tune of £1.3bn) is going on to the west of Milton Keynes. Some 6,500 new homes are to be built in the rather lumberingly-named Western Expansion Area between Stony Stratford, Two Mile Ash and Crowhill.
This area is about as far from the land of the concrete cow as you can imagine, with a mixture of lovely village and country houses, and modern contemporary homes to choose from.
Homes in Milton Keynes cost an average £235,444, up 4.91 per cent in the last 12 months.
avid Webb, a director of Fine and Country prefers to use the word expansion to describe the plans to expand Milton Keynes, pointing out that regeneration usually suggests a run-down area.
At present buyers could pick up a two bedroom period cottage in Stony Stratford for around £160,000 to £200,000 or a four bedroom 1970s house for circa £400,000. And Webb believes that demand in the area (which includes London and Birmingham commuters) is such that it can sustain a stream of new houses starting to come onto the market in the next year or two.
“At the moment we have got quite a severe shortage of property and high demand,” he said. “If there was to be a slowing of prices then I would argue that would be a good thing because we are heading towards a boom and bust situation where prices are rising above what people can afford. Milton Keynes is used to having big influxes of new homes, and I don’t think it will suffer.”
1. For those willing to play a long game this two bedroom period house in Birkenhead, yards from the River Mersey, could be worth a lot more than £69,950 when the Wirral Waters scheme is up and running. It is also extremely handy for Hamilton Square station, and local transport links never hurt a home’s price growth potential.
2. Alternatively this five bedroom Victorian house is on offer at £222,500.
3. The Commonwealth Games will breathe new life into the East End of Glasgow where you could buy a one bedroom flat above shops for a mere £42,000.
4. Or for £269,995 you could opt for a fabulous three bedroom flat on nearby Glasgow Green, within an easy walk of the games’ athletes village.
5. East of Milton Keynes billions of pounds are being invested, which could make homes like this £2.5m Georgian pile all the more sought after.
6. The area – of course – also has modern property, including this three bedroom contemporary townhouse for sale at £240,000
People in the North spend £3,000 a year less on the cost of running a home than those in London, research showed today.
Unsurprisingly, London is the most expensive place to live in Britain, with people in the capital splashing out an average of £11,536 a year on essential bills such as utilities, council tax, insurance and their mortgage or rent.
But households in the North spend an average of just £8,521 on the same bills, according to price comparison website MoneySupermarket.com.
The group found there was a significant north-south divide in the cost of living.
The South East was the second most expensive place in which to run a home at an average of £11,317, followed by the South West and East at £10,955 and £10,593 respectively.
At the other end of the scale, South Wales was the second cheapest place to live at around £8,540 a year, followed by the North of Scotland at £8,635.
But Cheshire bucked the trend, with households in the area spending an average of £10,031 on the cost of running a home.
Unsurprisingly, mortgage or rent payments make up the bulk of annual living costs, with high house prices in the south pushing up the cost of living there.
Those living in London shell out an average of £7,164 a year keeping a roof over their head, significantly more than the £4,452 spent by those in the North.
The next biggest cost was council tax, with households in the South East facing the highest bills at £2,492 a year.
But the north-south divide was less pronounced here, with people in Yorkshire facing the second highest charges at around £2,548 a year, followed by those in Cheshire at £2,516.
Residents in the North of Scotland had the lowest council tax bills at £1,421, but this is partially offset by the fact that the area has the most expensive energy bills, with people paying an average of £1,383 a year for their gas and electricity.
Meanwhile, households in the South West paid the most for their water bills, which at an average of £811 were nearly double the £489 paid across the UK as a whole.
Home insurance cost an average of £186 a year across the UK, with those in London and Cheshire paying the most at £280 and £245 respectively, and those in the South East paying the least at just £120.
The group also found that the typical cost of broadband varied by up to £45 from one region to another.
Clare Francis, editor-in-chief at MoneySupermarket.com, said: “Even though it comes as no surprise that London is the most expensive area in the UK to live, what is perhaps surprising is the marked differences in the bills you pay depending on whereabouts in the country you live.
“With the exception of Cheshire, anyone living or looking to move anywhere south of the Midlands will find they are being hit hardest when it comes to essential bills.”
Homeowners are flocking to fixed rate mortgages as they brace themselves for interest rate rises, figures have revealed.
The number of people taking out a fixed rate deal rose for the sixth consecutive quarter during the first three months of the year, according to the Bank of England.
Around 81 per cent of all mortgages advanced during the period went to people taking out a fixed rate loan, an increase of 10.3 percentage points compared with the same period of 2013.
It was also the highest level since the Bank began collecting the data in 2007.
But despite the trend for borrowers taking out new loans to opt for fixed rate deals, the majority of homeowners remain on variable rate ones, with these accounting for 65 per cent of outstanding mortgage debt.
The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee is not expected to start raising the official cost of borrowing until 2015, and any increases are expected to be gradual.
But despite a future rate rise remaining several months off, homeowners are increasingly opting for the security offered by a fixed rate deal.
Jonathan Harris, director of mortgage broker Anderson Harris, said: “An increasing number of people are worried about the double whammy of overpriced property and the impact of an interest rate rise, creating a softening in lending volumes.
“Borrowers are protecting themselves where they can with more than 80 per cent of new mortgages taken on a fixed basis.
“Even though the average fixed rate edged 2 basis points higher, the growing threat of an interest rate rise means the allure of the fixed rate is strong.”
Fixed rate deals are also looking good value at the moment compared with trackers.
Separate figures released by the Bank today showed that the typical interest rate charged on a two-year fixed rate mortgage for someone borrowing 75 per cent of their property’s value was 2.56 per cent at the end of May.
This rate compared with an average of 2.73 per cent for a comparable tracker deal – which would move up in line with interest rate rises.
Lenders are currently charging average interest of 3.71 per cent for a five-year fixed rate mortgage for someone with a 25 per cent deposit.
People with smaller deposits continue to be charged a premium, with interest on a two-year fixed rate loan for someone with a 20 per cent deposit averaging 4.49 per cent.
Homeowners borrowing 95 per cent of their home’s value are typically charged 5.56 per cent on five-year fixed rate loans.
The cost of nearly all types of mortgage increased during May, although rises were limited to just one or two basis points.
The recent upward trend in mortgage interest rates has left the average cost of a five-year fixed rate deal on a 75 per cent LTV loan at its highest level since June 2013.
Rates charged on a comparable two-year product are the most expensive they have been since August 2013.
But despite the recent rises, the cost of both fixed rate and variable mortgages still remain well down on the level seen before the credit crunch struck.
The Bank said the value of outstanding mortgage debt totalled £1,234 billion at the end of March, 1.2 per cent more than a year earlier.
But the level of this debt that lenders had sold on to investors, known as securitisation, declined for the sixth consecutive quarter to stand at just 8.1 per cent of the total, the lowest level recorded since the series began in 2007.
With 100 days until the Scottish independence referendum, what can you buy north and south of the boarder for the same amount of cash?
3. For sale with an asking price of £150,000 – five bedroom detached house in Dumfries And Galloway (left) verses four bedrooms in Durham (right)