Market News

UK Housing Market Sees More Buyers and Sellers as Prices Steady -

MARCH 14, 2024

(Bloomberg) -- Britain’s housing market has achieved a “soft landing” after as dip in prices last year, with a pickup in buyer confidence in February, according to one of the most forward-looking surveys tracking sentiment.

Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said a decline in mortgage interest rates has brought people back to the market and that a survey of agents indicates growing optimism about sales and prices.

“In terms of where we are in the market, I would characterize it as a soft landing, certainly as far as pricing is concerned,” Rubinsohn said Thursday on Bloomberg Radio. “The peak-to-trough decline in prices looks in this cycle very modest.”

The survey confirms reports from mortgage lenders Nationwide Building Society and Halifax showing that house prices picked up at the start of the year and now are little changed from their peak in 2022 — defying predictions last year for a drop of 10% or more. Bank of England data also have shown an increase in mortgage approvals, suggesting strength in the market.

RICS’s survey paints an upbeat outlook for the market after a slump in prices in 2023 triggered by the highest interest rates in 16 years. With economists anticipating rate cuts from the Bank of England later this year, home buyers are becoming more confident. 

“The rise in the number of appraisals taking place points in the right direction,” Rubinsohn said. “Whether the increase in stock coming back to market will be sustained is likely to be a critical factor in explaining how things play out over the balance of the year.”

RICS also found:

  • Agreed sales were little changed in February, registering a balance of minus 3% — stronger than most of the past year but down slightly from January.
  • Sales expectations for the coming year were positive at a reading of 42%.
  • New sales instructions hit the highest level since October 2020, a contrast to declines in most of last year.
  • House prices in RICS survey were headed down but at the least negative pace since October 2022. A turnaround in London is more pronounced.

What Bloomberg Economics Says ...

“The British property market is gathering momentum. A less restrictive interest rate outlook and real wage growth are luring buyers back. That highlights upside risks to our forecast of house prices remaining broadly flat in 2024 relative to 2023.”

—Niraj Shah, Bloomberg Economics. Click for the OUTLOOK.

In the home rental market, landlord instructions continue to dwindle while tenant demand kept rising at a slightly more modest pace. Most agents expect rents to rise over the near-term, although fewer were positive than a year ago.

“There are signs that the relentless upward trend in private rents is losing momentum,” Rubinsohn said. “But fresh demand is still comfortably outstripping supply in this area which suggests there is unlikely to any significant relief for tenants.”  

--With assistance from James Woolcock, Stephen Carroll and Lizzy Burden.


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