House price growth remains in the doldrums and Britain’s housing market is shifting in favour of buyers, Nationwide’s latest house price index reveals.
Month-on-month, the average cost of a home slipped by 0.1 per cent between January and February.
This month, average house prices have been just 0.4 per cent higher than they were this time a year ago.
Kevin Roberts, of Legal & General Mortgage Club
Kevin Roberts, director of Legal & General Mortgage Club, said: ‘Slower house price growth combined with competitive mortgage rates continues to entice buyers, particularly first-timers, who now make up the majority of home purchases bought with a mortgage.
‘With their numbers at a 12-year high, government initiatives, such as Help to Buy and Shared Ownership are helping those who may otherwise be unable to step onto the property ladder.’
‘For borrowers, the influx of innovative solutions has provided more choice than ever before, which for some may seem a little overwhelming. By speaking with a mortgage adviser, borrowers can gain a better understanding of the options available and receive tailored advice that is best suited to their needs.’
Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent and former RICS residential chairman, said: ‘The 2019 housing market clearly hasn’t quite taken off in the way many hoped or expected.
‘Although activity is better for some price brackets and property types, buyers and sellers are caught in a dilemma.
‘Are concerns over Brexit outweighing positive improvements in affordability and employment, combined with continuing low borrowing costs? The result is inaction for many, other than first-time buyer numbers which remain one good news story as they profit from reduced landlord competition for smaller, lower-priced properties, which will certainly benefit the whole market.
‘Looking forward, we are not expecting much change until at least the odds on a Brexit deal shorten and perhaps more encouragement for housing in the forthcoming Spring Statement.’
Lucy Pendleton, director of estate agent James Pendleton, said: ‘It’s a pretty unremarkable start to the year but, assuming there’s no delay to Article 50, this is going to be the mood music until we get through to April.
‘February can be a mixed bag but it’s generally a time of year when the market starts to really pick up in terms of post-Christmas activity. There are extenuating circumstances now of course that are affecting that typical pattern, and delivering us the first quarterly fall since the middle of 2018.
‘The market is falling in real terms but in the more expensive parts of the country, particularly London, it’s going to take a more significant retreat in prices to pull first-time buyers to the table in significantly greater numbers.’
Howard Archer, chief economic adviser at EY ITEM Club, said February’s figures show ‘another weak performance’ for house prices.
He said: ‘If Brexit is delayed for a few months, ongoing uncertainty is likely to weigh down on the housing market and could well see house prices stagnate over the year or even fall slightly.’
Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said: ‘We still expect the official measure of house prices to rise by 1.5% over the course of 2019, though most of that increase likely will be concentrated in the second half of this year.’