House prices have fallen in England for the first time since 2012.
Nationwide’s March House Price Index shows average prices in England fell 0.7% annually in the first quarter of 2019.
London was the weakest performing region in the first quarter, with prices 3.8% lower than the same period of 2018 – the fastest pace of decline since 2009 and the seventh consecutive quarter in which prices have declined in the capital.
Northern Ireland remained the strongest performing home nation in the first quarter, although annual price growth slowed to 3.3%, from 5.8% in the previous quarter
Across the UK, average prices were up just 0.7% annually and 0.2% on a monthly basis in March to £213,102.
Robert Gardner, chief economist for Nationwide, said: “Indicators of housing market activity, such as the number of property transactions and the number of mortgages approved for house purchase, have remained broadly stable in recent months, even though survey data suggests that sentiment has softened.
“Measures of consumer confidence weakened around the turn of the year and surveyors report that new buyer enquiries have continued to decline, falling to their lowest level since 2008 in February.
“While the number of properties coming onto the market has also slowed, this doesn’t appear to have been enough to prevent a modest shift in the balance of demand and supply in favour of buyers in recent months.”
Commenting on the figures, Sam Mitchell, chief executive of Housesimple, said: “Normally, we would expect to see a spike in transaction levels around this time as we enter the traditional spring bounce period, but with the extension to the EU leaving date, the bounce is likely to be a little subdued this year.
“Saying that, savvy sellers could see this as a short window of opportunity to steal a march on the competition, as more homeowners choose to wait and see what happens with Brexit negotiations in the next few weeks before marketing.”
Meanwhile, Bank of England data shows the number of mortgage approvals for house purchase slid in February.
There were 64,337 mortgage approvals during February, down 3.5% on January, the Bank of England said.
This was also below the previous six-month average of 65,537.
Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, said: “It is no surprise that mortgage approvals for house purchase fell back slightly last month, according to Bank of England figures. In fact, the only surprise might be that they didn’t fall back a lot more, bearing in mind Brexit and other distractions.
“Looking forward, we have found on the ground that enquiries have increased. Buyers and sellers are fighting to come out of hibernation later than expected so there could be a reasonable upturn in mortgage approvals and sales over the next few months.
“Builders and developers in particular are demonstrating more optimism as we are receiving enquiries for development land where product will not be available for at least 12-18 months when the present fog will hopefully be a distant memory.”
By MARC SHOFFMAN
Source: Property Industry Eye