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Another Active Year For The Property Market

Feb 15, 2008
2008 is shaping up to be an interesting year for the property market.

Already January has seen a small decline. Figures out last week from the Nationwide building society showed that house prices fell by 0.1 per cent.

And with yesterday's interest rate cut making mortgages more affordable for thousands of people, who knows what will happen over the next 11 months.

Of course this year is following a very unusual one for the property market in 2007. It started with the introduction of Home Information Packs, which you probably know as Hips.

They were brought in after some research in 1997 showed that one in four of all house sales fell apart before contracts could be exchanged. They were formally announced four years ago and phased in over a number of months last year.

For anyone who hasn't dived into the property market and sold their house for a few years, they will have to get used to paying for a Hip to be compiled. It has to contain a number of documents, all less than three months old. They include a statement of sale, energy performance certificate, local authority searches and of course the title documents for the property.

The effect Hips had last year was to pile on a little more expense to the process of selling a house. Some property consultants believed that restricted the supply of houses to the market a little, as people who would once have speculatively put their house up for sale to see if they got any bites would be less likely to do this.

Another key factor that affected the property market in 2007 was interest rate rises. Between August 2006 and November last year, there were five rate rises. Even though they have dropped twice since, the majority of people who didn't get into a fixed deal at the right time are paying a lot more for their monthly mortgage payment than they were two years ago. That lack of disposable income is bound to have an effect on people's willingness to buy bigger property, increasing their mortgage payments again.

And of course there was a slowdown in house price growth last year. It seems as though the effect of that is continuing into 2008.

The Nationwide's monthly price survey of the property market for January showed the 0.1% fall was the third consecutive monthly fall in average property prices. They went down 0.5% in December and 0.8% in November.

The decline has seen annual house price growth fall back to 4.2%, which is not only the lowest figure for 13 months, but is down from 4.8 per cent in December 2007.

And it means that the average price of a property in the UK now stands at 180,473.

The Nationwide, which has been issuing monthly house price indexes for 13 years now, puts these changes into perspective. It says that despite the three falls in a row, the price of a typical property is still 4.2% higher than it was 12 months ago.

The building society will be keeping a close eye on how the recent interest rate cuts and any more in the months to come will affect the market. It's possible that lower rates will attract buyers in creating more demand. The key will be if the demand turns into actual house price transactions.

So what will happen to the property market throughout the rest of 2008? It's a tough one to call right now. One thing's for certain - it looks like we may have a year as eventful as the last one.
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