Latest: property market report
September was packed full of property information. There was news from all the big hitters, including the Prime Minister, major banks and the big portals. Here are the facts and stats shaping the current market.
A big announcement came from the Bank of England. With inflation falling from 6.8% in July to 6.7% in August 2023, the Bank felt confident enough to hold the interest rate at 5.25% in September. This ended a run of 14 consecutive rate rises.
Fixed-rate mortgages fall in cost
This double dose of good news was joined by encouraging home loan activity. In September, mortgage rates fell below 5% for the first time since July. There were more than 80 sub-5% mortgage products available at the end of September. The majority were attached to 5-, 7- and 10-year fixed deals.
September saw more homes for sale
With the economic outlook improving, all eyes turned to the portals to measure home mover sentiment. September is traditionally a time when activity spikes. The month marks a return to school and a window of opportunity for people to move before Christmas.
Last month was true to form. Rightmove noted new instructions had risen by 12% during the first week of September, when compared with the average weekly number during August. It also found the average new seller asking price increased by 0.4%.
With asking prices rising, it was interesting to see how sold house prices might be affected. Nationwide’s House Price Index, which is calculated using owner-occupier property purchases involving a mortgage, is a good barometer. The latest showed monthly house prices remain unchanged in September, halting a run of four consecutive monthly value falls.
Nationwide says the UK’s average house price in September was £257,808. For comparison, Zoopla has the same metric at £265,100, while the latest Hometrack House Price Index puts the figure at £261,100. Zoopla adds that prices are still rising in Scotland, the North of England and Wales.
The feel-good factor is creeping back into the market but the news for tenants is less favourable. Zoopla says rents for new tenancies are 10.3% higher now than in September 2022, with Scotland having the highest level of rental inflation in the UK, at 12.8%. A new tenant will pay an average of £1,164 per month.
Government’s EPC reprieve for landlords
It’s not all bad news in lettings. Landlords have something to cheer about after the Conservative party started its charm offensive ahead of a General Election. The headline announcement was the abolishment of planned changes to minimum energy efficiency standards in private rentals.
The move should save landlords a reputed £8,000 – the average amount many would need to spend to meet proposed eco standards. The Conservatives had wanted new and renewing tenancies to have a minimum EPC rating of C in 2025, and all tenancies to meet this level in 2028.
Promise of quicker buy-to-let repossessions
The Prime Minister’s announcement was followed by a lower-key speech by Housing Minister, Rachel Maclean. Addressing the Conservative Party Conference, she offered landlords a guarantee that repossessions in court would become quicker, although she omitted to disclose how. She also failed to address when the Renters’ Reform Bill would have its second reading – a Bill that seeks to ban Section 21 notices.
A sweetener was also offered to some homeowners in England and Wales whose homes are heated by traditional systems. The Government says the ban of the sale of new gas and oil-fired boilers from 2035 will not affect everyone. It expects 20% of households to be exempt, possibly as a result of means testing. No such reverse of tougher EPC standards for private lets or bans on gas boiler sales has been announced in Scotland, although its next Parliamentary Election isn’t expected until around May 2026.
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