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The average cost of a home in the UK rose by only £14 this month as the housing market entered a period of “greater realism” on price.
Figures from Rightmove, the property website, suggest the average house price in the UK is £362,452, up 3.9 per cent from last year.
Prices for newly listed homes remained flat between January and February, while interest from buyers was up 11 per cent compared with the same period in 2019, before the pandemic struck, the figures showed.
House prices usually rise at the start of a calendar year as more homes enter the market and sellers try to bid up in expectation of higher demand.
Tim Bannister from Rightmove said that the figures showed that many sellers were breaking with tradition and showing unseasonal initial pricing restraint. “Market conditions are demanding greater realism on price and we are transitioning into a slower-paced market, where buyers will take longer to find the right property at the right price due to the higher cost of servicing a mortgage,” he said.
The housing market is still expected to slow down substantially as a result of rising borrowing costs and a slowing economy. This year is expected to register the biggest drop in house prices since the financial crisis.
Mortgage rates have stabilised after the lending market was thrown into turmoil following last September’s mini-budget, which led to hundreds of mortgage offers being withdrawn. Rightmove said the cost of an average five-year fixed mortgage with a 15 per cent deposit had fallen to 4.82 per cent from 5.9 per cent in October.
The Bank of England is expected to raise interest rates by 0.25 percentage points next month and then bring a halt to its tightening after more than a year of raising borrowing costs. Falling inflation and steadily rising unemployment are likely to mean the Bank will hold off on further rate rises after March, according to money market predictions that expect rates to remain at 4.25 per cent for most of the year.
Rightmove’s figures suggest that first-time buyers have shrugged off the mini-budget turmoil with overall sales down only 7 per cent on 2019 levels, while total home sales are still 11 per cent below pre-pandemic levels.
“This suggests that though the first-time buyer sector has been hardest hit in terms of the number of buyers inquiring, those who are in the market and able to move are motivated to agree a purchase, driven in part by high and increasing rents, and a continued desire to own their own home,” Rightmove said.
Sales of the most expensive homes are down 16 per cent in the first two weeks of February compared with the same time in 2019. The average price of “top of the ladder” homes, which excludes prices in central London, dipped 0.8 per cent between January and February to £650,755. Bannister said the housing market was moving towards a “more normal level of activity” after surging demand during Covid-19 lockdowns and the panic introduced by the Liz Truss government.