The housing market’s anticipated recovery in 2024 appears to be slow, as indicated by a warning from Nationwide. Despite modest improvements, like a slight dip in mortgage rates, the overall outlook remains cautious. Investors, however, are expressing more confidence in the belief that the Bank of England’s recent rate hikes will effectively tackle inflation, paving the way for potential rate reductions in the coming years.
This shift in investor sentiment carries significance, particularly in influencing longer-term interest rates. These rates, which play a pivotal role in determining the pricing of fixed-rate mortgages, have seen a decline. Despite these developments, Nationwide suggests that a swift resurgence in the housing market is not on the immediate horizon. The market continues to grapple with uncertainties despite these positive signals.
Chief economist Robert Gardner offers a measured perspective on the housing market’s trajectory, suggesting that a swift rebound in activity or housing prices in 2024 is unlikely. Despite recent indicators showing a reduction in cost-of-living pressures, with inflation now tracking below average wage growth, Gardner emphasizes that certain factors continue to contribute to a subdued market environment.
Consumer confidence remains weak, and surveyors report levels of new buyer inquiries that are notably restrained. These factors, coupled with ongoing economic uncertainties, contribute to the cautious sentiment in the housing market. Investors and potential homebuyers are navigating a landscape where optimism is tempered by concerns about the sustainability of recovery.
Moreover, Gardner points out that, although markets anticipate a potential decrease in the Bank Rate, there are lingering upward risks to interest rates. Inflation may be on a downward trajectory, but measures of domestic price pressures remain uncomfortably high. This complex interplay of economic factors underscores the challenges facing the housing market, making a rapid and robust recovery in 2024 a challenging prospect.
The prospect of an improvement in housing affordability hinges on a combination of steady income growth, slightly lower house prices, and a gradual decline in mortgage rates, according to comments from Chief Economist Robert Gardner. Despite this potential positive shift, Gardner predicts that housing market activity will remain relatively subdued in the near term. In the event of continued economic sluggishness and a gradual moderation in mortgage rates, Gardner suggests the likelihood of another modest decline or a generally flat trend (potentially ranging from 0 to -2 per cent) in house prices throughout 2024.
These observations follow Gardner’s recent report indicating that UK house prices concluded 2023 with a 1.8 per cent decrease compared to December 2022. This dip in prices positions them nearly 4.5 per cent below the previous all-time high recorded in late summer 2022. Gardner’s straightforward analysis underscores the challenges and uncertainties facing the housing market, emphasizing the nuanced factors influencing affordability and price dynamics in the coming year.
Gardner also emphasized the ongoing competition between owner-occupiers and landlords in the pursuit of smaller properties. This competition signifies a trend observed during 2023, with an increasing number of buyers directing their focus towards smaller and more budget-friendly properties. Notably, transaction volumes for flats demonstrated greater resilience compared to other property types, showcasing a noteworthy shift in buyer preferences.
The Nationwide’s observations provide a straightforward analysis, highlighting the evolving dynamics within the property market. This insight offers valuable information on the factors influencing buyer behavior and shaping property preferences in the current real estate landscape.
Gardner states: “This may be because affordability for flats has held up relatively better as they experienced less of a price increase over the pandemic period. Average prices for flats have increase by 11.0 percent since Q1 2020 – around half the 22.6 percent increase for detached properties over the same period.
“However, in our most recent data, we have seen a convergence in the annual rate of price growth for different property types.
“During 2023, the price of semi-detached properties held up best, recording a 1.8 percent year-on-year fall. Meanwhile, flats and terraced houses both saw a 2.1 percent annual decline, while detached properties were the weakest performing, with prices down 2.7 percent over the year.”