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House prices in the UK are still gently falling in real terms

Nationwide has just released its latest house price figures. In October, house prices were 0.4% higher than they were a year ago.

Your average UK home will now set you back £215,368 exactly.

Prices are rising more slowly than wages or wider inflation. That means they’re falling in “real” terms.

That’s great news…

Slowly falling house prices are a good thing

This morning’s figures from Nationwide show that UK house prices are still pretty much flat, and falling after inflation.

The economy is OK. Interest rates are low. Employment is high. Those things are likely to prevent an all-out crash.

On the other hand, rates probably can’t go much lower, while the impact of the effective removal of landlords from the housing market is still rippling through the market.

And while the resolution of Brexit might boost sentiment or activity at one level, it is also likely to lead to slightly higher interest rates, which I suspect would help to prevent a massive rebound in prices.

This is all good. As the Nationwide chart below shows, this means that affordability is gently improving.

I hope this continues. You’ve heard me say that dozens of times by now, but I like to keep reiterating it, for a couple of reasons.

One reason is that, here in the UK, we are rather attached to the idea of ever-rising house prices. I think it would be helpful for us to shed this attachment and instead recognise that hoping for a house to provide both shelter and a retirement income is a recipe for a high-stress existence.

This is unfortunately, as yet, a minority view. My colleague Merryn keeps a track via Twitter of the “how celebrities invest their money”-type interviews in the Sunday papers.

She’s always very excited to spot the occasional sensible celeb who not only has a pension, but also understands that said pension holds equities. However, mostly celebs say something along the lines of “I own property. The stockmarket’s just a casino. You can’t go wrong with bricks’n’mortar.”

There’s this weird notion that investing in stocks is faintly immoral gambling, whereas taking a punt with borrowed money on the housing market (competing with people who just want a roof over their heads in the process) is honest in some way.

Anyway, once people stop making fast money from property, that will hopefully start to change.

House prices are not about physical supply and demand

The second reason stems from the other end of the spectrum. I’ve noticed that the tenor of columnists getting annoyed about the “housing crisis” is becoming increasingly hysterical, probably because we’re coming up for an election (at some point) and housing is a political hot button.

The answer for these writers is always to “build more houses”, because it’s all about supply and demand. The problem is that it’s not that simple.

It’s interesting that we’ve become obsessed with the idea of building more homes at a time when – in many parts of the UK outside London – double-digit house price growth hasn’t been seen for over a decade.

You can certainly argue that the planning system is flawed (it is) and you can certainly argue that there are not enough houses in certain areas and too many in others, and that the quality overall is poor.

And you can certainly argue that there’s really no need for British homes to be the smallest in Europe. Yes we have a relatively big population but we’re not jammed in that tightly.

But a blanket policy of just “building more” won’t help. House prices are high because the cost of borrowing is low.

Put very simply, here’s how it works. At interest rates of 10%, a £900 monthly payment will pay for a 25-year repayment mortgage of £100,000. At interest rates of 2%, £900 a month will buy you a 25-year repayment mortgage of just over £210,000.

That’s why house prices go up when interest rates go down (assuming credit conditions slacken at roughly the same pace). Because the amount you can borrow to pay for the same house goes up.

It’s that straightforward. Physical supply and demand does have an effect – of course it does – but it’s marginal relative to the effect of the supply of credit.

So here’s the good news. Interest rates can barely go much lower, and rules around mortgage lending are tighter than they once were (there are still signs of lenders getting more excitable again but we’re not back in Northern Rock territory yet).

Meanwhile, wages are rising. So overall, rising wages should improve affordability while stable interest rates keep a lid on house price growth.

So we make some headway into the frustration caused by unaffordable homes, while buying ourselves time to take a more considered view and put in place deeper reforms that might put an end to the perpetual cycle of boom and bust.

OK, if I’m honest, I’m not optimistic about that last point – it would require too much long-term thinking. But having a bit of a breather at least from house price woes would be healthy for us all.

By: John Stepek

Source: Money Week

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Government ‘should overhaul’ stamp duty to boost housing market

The government should slash stamp duty to help boost housebuilding and encourage people to buy their own homes, a new report has stated.

Stamp duty is the second most unpopular UK levy behind inheritance tax, and a gradual rise in rates has meant the average buyer in England pays £2,300 when they buy a property.

Think tank the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) branded stamp duty a “tax on mobility and aspiration” and urged the government to raise the threshold from £125,000 to £500,000.

The report, drawn up by former No 10 housing adviser Alex Morton, proposed that a four per cent levy be charged on properties between £500,000 and £1m, and five per cent on anything higher.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has supported the idea of stamp duty reform. However, uncertainty over the cost of the move, coupled with chancellor Sajid Javid’s decision to cancel his planned Budget on 6 November, has cast doubts on the tax cuts.

Stamp duty currently raises £5.1bn for the government. However, the CPS argued a reform to the tax would cost only £1.6bn due to the positive impact of increased transactions.

The report estimated that a one per cent cut in stamp duty rates would increase housing transactions by roughly 20 per cent, which in turn would lead to more homes being built.

Moreover, it stated that the cost of reforming the tax could be further offset by a new three per cent levy charged to foreign buyers snapping up property in the UK. The CPS also argued that stamp duty should be kept on commercial and buy-to-let properties.

“While the Treasury are right to be fiscally focused, they need to take into account the fact that stamp duty on homes has an impact on transactions, which means cutting this tax is cheaper than expected,” said Alex Morton, CPS head of policy.

“We propose mean a far more appropriate rate for the most valuable homes – and taking nine out of 10 people who just want to buy a decent home for themselves and their family out of the tax altogether.”

By James Warrington

Source: City AM

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UK mortgage approvals hit six-month low in September – UK Finance

The number of new mortgages approved by British banks hit a six-month low in September, according to a survey that adds to signs the housing market is slowing again ahead of the October Brexit deadline.

Industry body UK Finance said banks approved 42,310 loans for home purchase in September, compared with 42,527 in August, according to seasonally-adjusted data. However, the number of approvals for remortgaging rose to the highest level since November 2017 at 32,649.

UK Finance said annual growth in consumer credit rose to a 19-month high of 4.5%, driven by personal loans and overdrafts rather than credit card lending.

Reporting by Andy Bruce, editing by David Milliken

Source: UK Reuters

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UK properties taking longer to sell

UK properties are taking almost two weeks longer to sell than last year according research by Post Office Money.

The ‘City Rate of Sale’ report, developed with the Centre of Economics and Business (Cebr) reveals on average it takes 114 days to sell a property in the UK.

Homes in Oxford take the longest to sell, staying on the market for an average of nearly five months.

Glasgow and Edinburgh saw properties sell the fastest in the UK spending 47 and 45 days on the market respectively.

Properties in Stoke have seen the largest increase in time spent on the market rising by 47% from 57 days to 84 days in the past year.

The report looked at the average time it takes for a property to sell in 66 major cities across the UK.

Ross Hunter, spokesperson for Post Office Money, said: “Properties are taking almost two weeks longer to sell compared to last year, but this doesn’t mean that interest in moving up the housing ladder is waning.

“At Post Office we have continued to see a rise in mortgage applications and approvals in the last year. There is political uncertainty at the moment, and the housing market can fluctuate, so it pays to be prepared.

“Whether you are a first-time seller or someone looking to sell up and downsize, it is more important than ever to understand the market in your area to ensure a smooth transaction.

“Our online tool allows you to find out how quickly you could sell your home across the UK, allowing you to plan ahead.”

By Jessica Nangle

Source: Mortgage Introducer

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Housing market ‘in limbo’ as London house prices drop 1.4 per cent

London house prices booked a steep 1.4 per cent annual drop in August as UK house prices grew at a lower level than last year, according to the latest data.

While UK house prices posted annual growth of 1.3 per cent to beat that of 0.8 per cent in July, growth dipped below last year’s level amid a general slowdown.

London fuelled the drop as the capital suffered the UK’s biggest annual fall. followed by a 0.6 per cent decline in south east house prices.

That left the average UK house price worth £235,000 in August, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

London house prices dropped to an average of £472,753.

“Annual growth in UK house prices showed a moderate pick-up in August although it remains below the increases seen throughout 2018,” ONS head of inflation Mike Hardie said.

“Wales saw the strongest growth with prices continuing to fall in London and the south east.”

Experts said the latest statistics painted a “picture of a housing market in limbo” as London suffered the worst effects of political uncertainty on the UK housing market.

“The closer we come to an apparent EU exit, the more likely it is that even the most fearless home buyer or seller will hold tight until the dust has settled,” warned Benham and Reeves director Marc von Grundherr.

“Further downward trends should be expected until the start of next year at the very least.”

Jeremy Leaf, a former residential chairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said the latest figures show a small recovery in the housing market.

“Sadly, this is nothing to get too excited about because the market remains relatively flat although of course the resilience is welcome,” he added.

Better affordability and almost record-low mortgage rates are improving buyers’ and sellers’ confidence, he added.

Brexit leaves UK house prices in ‘growth rut’
However, property lender Octane Capital’s chief executive, Jonathan Samuels, warned that Brexit has left the UK housing market in a “growth rut”.

“With Brexit hanging over it, it’s as if the property market is frozen in a one per cent annual price growth rut,” he said.

“Very low single digit growth has been the narrative for well over a year now and it’s hard to see that changing anytime soon,” he added.

“London and the south east remain the primary drag on average prices, as they pay for the riotous growth of five or six years ago.

“While the market is down, low supply and stock levels, cheap mortgages and the strong jobs market are ensuring a degree of movement.”

Brexit endgame could increase volatility
Samuels warned that UK house prices could grow more volatile as the urgency for a Brexit deal increases

“We’re now approaching the Brexit endgame and the ride could get increasingly bumpy.

“It’s possible that what happens during the next few months, even weeks, could determine the fate of the property market over the next few years.”

London house prices ‘must end boom or bust cycle’
Gareth Lewis, commercial director of property lender MT Finance, said London house prices must show more modest growth to end their volatility.

“It may be the case that London and the south east need more sensible levels of price growth in order to produce a more robust market, rather than boom and bust,” he said.

EY Item Club economic adviser Howard Archer said the data showed a “renewed softening” in London house prices. He pointed out that it is the 14th successive month of decline for the capital.

Economy ‘too weak’ to prop up UK house prices
UK house prices and London house prices could benefit from a lack of housing supply, Archer predicted.

But he warned that the UK economy may not hold up house prices for much longer, a day after the unemployment rate inched upwards.

“The government’s recent – and ongoing – initiatives to boost house building will take time to have a significant effect so are unlikely to markedly influence house prices in the near term at least,” Archer said.

“However, the labour market has recently faltered and it looks likely to continue to do so in the near term at least as companies face a soft domestic economy, heightened Brexit uncertainties, an unsettled domestic political situation and a challenging global environment.”

“With the economy largely struggling and the outlook highly uncertain, we suspect that house prices will remain soft in the near term at least,” Archer added, predicting a one per cent rise across 2019.

PwC economist Jamie Durham disagreed, saying wage growth and unemployment remained sturdy supports for the housing market.

“But continued uncertainty in the market, related to Brexit among other factors, is likely to be dampening both supply and demand,” he added. “This is particularly the case in the capital and will likely continue to affect price growth over the coming months.”

By Joe Curtis

Source: City AM

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Brexit impasse leads to stand-off in housing market as buyers and sellers both stay away

Both buyers and sellers are sitting on their hands, as the unpredictable Brexit crisis wears on.

The RICS said that there is little sign of the impasse in the housing market ending, with appraisals down on this time a year ago.

It said that new instructions across the UK have slipped to the weakest in three years, with sales, buyer demand and supply all in negative territory.

The RICS said that average stock levels on estate agents’ books are at record lows, with activity among buyers and sellers slipping in virtually all parts of the UK.

House prices have slipped across London and the south-east, said the RICS, but are up in Northern Ireland, Scotland and the north-west.

Most of the RICS estate agents responding to the latest survey, covering September, expect no pick-up for the rest of this year.

However, looking further ahead, 18% more RICS agents expect prices to rise over the next year than do not.

RICS chief economist Simon Rubinsohn said: “There are good reasons for thinking the latest dip in both buyer enquiries and vendor instructions is a response to the endless wrangling about Brexit, as the October 31 deadline approaches.

“However, unless there is a speedy resolution to the ongoing impasse, it does seem inevitable that the stand-off between purchasers and sellers will deepen, making it harder to complete transactions.

“This will not only be a direct hit on the housing market itself but could have ramifications for the wider economy as the normal spend on furniture, fittings and appliances that typically accompanies a house move is also put on hold.”

The RICS this morning also reported a decline in landlord instructions but a rise in tenancy demand.

The survey sample drew 323 responses, covering 547 branches.


Source: Property Industry Eye

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UK property market remains subdued but growth expected in next year

Residential property sales remained subdued in September and buyer demand and supply slipped into negative territory, the latest industry housing market survey shows.

New instructions across the UK reached its weakest in three years and buyer enquiries have fallen as uncertainty deters house purchases, according to the report from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) but it still expects prices to rise at a national level over the next year.

It says that much of the anecdotal commentary from the survey respondents working in the market blames heightened economic and political uncertainty and the market seems unlikely to gain impetus over the next three months, though sentiment for a year ahead is more resilient.

In September, following three consecutive months of a stable trend, a decline is reported in home listings coming on to the housing market. Comments from contributors are suggesting that the Brexit impasse is dissuading vendors. The new instructions net balance fell to -37% in September, the weakest reading since June 2016.

Average stock levels on estate agents’ books, unsurprisingly therefore, remain near record lows. As contributors are reporting that appraisals are down compared to a year earlier, there is little prospect of a pick-up in the immediate future.

Alongside this, a more cautious approach from buyers is visible in the September results. After holding steady in the last four months, the new buyer enquiries net balance fell to -15%. In keeping with this, newly agreed sales fell, with a net balance of -27%, from -11% previously, with activity reportedly slipping in virtually all parts of the UK.

As far as the near-term outlook is concerned, sales expectations stand at -9%, suggesting sales will remain subdued in the coming three months.

The headline price balance sees a flat trend in house price inflation. However, there is once again a mixed picture across the UK with negative momentum in London and the South East, and solid gains in Northern Ireland, Scotland and the North West.

Looking ahead, price expectations for the coming three months stand at -16% pointing to a modest decline on a UK wide basis. However, the 12 month outlook points to a turnaround, with 18% more respondents expecting prices to rise rather than fall over the coming year.

In the lettings market, the latest set of results see demand from prospective tenants rising firmly for an eighth month in a row. Alongside this, landlord instructions remain in decline. With demand still outstripping supply, rent expectations for the coming three months remain positive at a net balance of 24%.

‘There are good reasons for thinking the latest dip in both buyer enquiries and vendor instructions is a response to the endless wrangling about Brexit, as the October 31st deadline approaches,’ said Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist.

‘Indeed, much of the commentary from respondents based further away from London and the South East remains relatively sanguine, which is also reflected in some of the metrics capturing expectations. However, unless there is a speedy resolution to the ongoing impasse it does seem inevitable that the stand-off between purchasers and sellers will deepen making it harder to complete transactions,’ he explained.

‘This will not only be a direct hit on the housing market itself but could have ramifications for the wider economy as the normal spend on furniture, fittings and appliances that typically accompanies a house move is also put on hold,’ he added.

Source: Property Wire

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Brexit and the housing market: prices drop and fewer homes are put up for sale

If you’re considering buying a house at the moment, you might want to know what the current, realtime impact of Brexit on the UK housing market is, and whether local house prices are the main thing you should be worried about.

Well, according to the latest Rightmove House Price Index, there’s more to the effects of the current political situation than the downward trend in house prices that we’ve been seeing. More on that in a minute.

First things first: it is true that Brexit is continuing to drag house prices down, especially in London and the South East, and in particular where it comes to bigger and top-tier properties.

On average, London properties are 2.1 per cent cheaper this September than they were the same time last year. By contrast, asking prices in the first-time buyer sector have actually increased by 0.6 per cent compared to August.

However, the far starker effects can be seen in the supply figures – in other words, how many properties are up for sale. Many people are holding off putting their homes on the market, with the number of newly listed properties down by a huge 7.8 per cent this September compared to a year ago.

This scarce supply is having a knock-on effect on would-be movers, many of whom are now unable to find suitable properties to move on to. The situation is much more severe in London, where the number of newly listed properties has fallen by a massive 20 per cent.

‘All regions are down on their numbers for both sales agreed and properties coming to market,’ comments Rightmove director Miles Shipside. ‘Some regions are just marginally behind the previous year, but they are all seeing less activity in these two key metrics, showing that hesitation is now more widespread rather than being localised to just some parts.

‘However, some of that will be due to difficulty in finding the right property to buy, as activity still remains brisk in some locations, evidenced by continuing upwards pricing pressure in some parts of Great Britain. Uncertainty is clearly not just about the political situation, with finding the right property to buy being a bigger worry for many.’

The takeaway from these stats is that if you’ve found a property you like and are in a position to buy, now is not the time to hesitate. You can read more about why Brexit shouldn’t stop you moving house in the news piece we published earlier this week. Our advice? Use the autumn lull to your advantage and negotiate a good price, if you can find a property you like.


Source: Real Homes

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Five innovative ways to combat the housing crisis

From modular commuter villages to innovative finance models, developers are finding new, inventive solutions to tackle the UK housing crisis.

Modular commuter villages

Located on the periphery of overcrowded urban centres, can provide affordable new housing stock while alleviating the inner-city housing crisis, according to Project Etopia.

Its first modular village, under development in Corby, Northamptonshire, includes 47 turnkey homes equipped with in-home internet of things technology, renewable energy, and intelligent heating and cooling systems.

The houses, which are fully mortgageable and have a lifespan of 60 to 100 years, are constructed offsite – four houses can be built in 34 days – and shipped worldwide. They are also affordable; a four-bedroom house in the Corby development costs between £320,000 and £350,000, compared with £450,000 to £575,000 for new, nearby brick-and-mortar houses, according to the company.

“Modular commuter villages the wage benefits of working in the capital, but without the high property costs,” says founder Joseph Daniels.

Etopia Corby is the company’s first project, but it is already developing others in the United States, Spain, Namibia and Kuwait. Mr Daniels says the company is also acquiring land in the UK to build a series of connected eco villages that will facilitate smart energy-sharing.

Specialist senior housing

Providing good quality accommodation for over-65s can free up large under-occupied family homes for younger generations to help tackle the housing crisis. Yet only around 3 per cent of homes in the UK are built specially for older people, even though around 18 per cent of the population, around 12 million, are aged 65 and over.

ExtraCare Charitable Trust has developed that it claims have freed up more than 750 local family homes.

To make its projects viable, the trust has focused on economies of scale and being a dedicated healthcare provider, which means it has access to government funds to help pay for often uneconomic communal spaces.

For example, it’s £48-million Longbridge Retirement Village in Birmingham, built on a disused car factory, comprises 260 one and two-bed apartments, plus a village hall, bar, bistro, gym and more.

“Good retirement living requires community spaces, but funding this while . However, we’re seeing exciting models enter the market, such as providing other services such as healthcare,” says Louise Drew, head of real estate at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, which worked on the Longbridge development.

Besides freeing up housing stock, senior housing can have other benefits. According to a recent study with Aston University, ExtraCare residents reduced their dependence on GP and hospital services, resulting in a 38 per cent reduction in NHS costs per person each year.

Building up, not out

Using existing rooftops to build upwards instead of outwards and provide 180,000 new homes, including 60,000 atop public assets, in London alone, according to housing developer Apex Airspace.

The company currently has plans to build 3,000 new homes in the capital, half of which will meet the government’s affordability guidelines.

By mitigating the need to purchase land for development, airspace projects are on average 35 per cent cheaper, according to the company. Furthermore, units are developed 95 per cent offsite using modern construction methods and then craned on to buildings which reduces construction costs.

A project under consideration in Bermondsey aims to deliver 31 residential apartments on two Lambeth and Southwark Housing Association-owned and currently occupied buildings by incorporating a double-storey rooftop extension and “bookend building” at either side.

As well as adding value to existing buildings for councils and private owners, managing director of the company Val Bagnall, says rooftop development can help pay for or share the cost of building upgrades, such as

Apex aims to deliver 10,000 homes over the next ten years, but Mr Bagnall says the potential for airspace homes could be increased by 25 per cent with a revision in planning permission law.

Pocket homes

Housing developers Pocket Living are helping the so-called squeezed middle get on the housing ladder by offering specially designed “Pocket homes” at a 20 per cent discount compared to the market rate.

The 38-square-metre modular factory-built apartments are cleverly designed for compact living. Each has an open-plan kitchen-living room, separate double bedroom and a wet room.

The company subsidises these homes by selling two and three-bedroom properties in the same developments at full market price. Costs are kept down with and modern manufacturing methods, according to the company.

Modular off-site construction has also enabled it to develop heavily constrained sites. Pocket Living’s latest project, a 27-storey, 89-home tower in Wandsworth, London, called Mapleton Crescent, was possible to develop because the housing units could be craned into the heavily restricted riverside site.

“Modular homes are better quality than traditionally constructed ones because they are made in factory-controlled conditions and they also create less disruption for neighbours as they come completely finished,” says associate and project architect on Mapleton, Jonathan Drage.

To date the company has developed 650 Pocket homes and plans to build thousands more over the next 18 months.

Mortgage-free part-home ownership

A house in the UK typically costs eight times more than the average wage, which means mortgage deposits are often prohibitively expensive for average earners.

Startup Unmortgage hopes to tackle this problem and help alleviate the housing crisis by offering first-time buyers gradual home-ownership without a mortgage.

Instead of saving for a full mortgage deposit, which at 20 per cent of the house price can be around £80,000 in London on average, Unmortgage customers can enter into a shared-ownership partnership with the company to purchase as little as 5 per cent – at a minimum cost £12,500 – of an Unmortgage-approved home. They then pay market-rate rent on the rest of the property.

Buyers can then increase the equity they own in their home by up to 5 per cent a year and, when they have enough to secure a mortgage, the property can be purchased outright.

Conrad Holmboe, chief information officer at Unmortgage, says the finance model can bridge the gap between renting and buying, while also providing long-term housing security.

“We aim to create a virtuous cycle where the more someone buys, the less rent they pay and the more equity they have,” says
Mr Holmboe.

Unmortgage is financed by Allianz Global Investors, which is reported to be providing £500 million, connecting pension funds and properties in a new way in the UK. With the first tranche of money, Unmortgage intends to fund “a couple of thousand” properties.

Source: Raconteur

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Number of property transactions decrease

Property transactions decreased for both residential and non-residential in July, according to the latest statistics from HMRC.

The UK property transactions statistics report shows that non-residential and residential property transactions saw a 5.8% and 12.4% year-on-year decrease respectively.

The provisional seasonally adjusted UK property transaction count for July was 86,630 residential and 9,760 non-residential transactions.

Declining transactions began at the end of 2007 after the financial crisis, prior to this transaction counts had risen steadily reaching its peak in mid-2006.

Kevin Roberts, director at Legal & General Mortgage Club, said: “Our research shows only one in ten borrowers plan to delay buying or selling as a result of Brexit, so it’s clear there are other barriers preventing a boost to transaction levels.

“While government schemes have helped thousands of first-time buyers onto the property ladder – we need to think about those further up the ladder too.

“To stimulate the market, the government needs to build more housing across all types of tenure.

“This will provide second steppers and last-time buyers with more choice and in turn, families can up or down-size accordingly.”

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, added: ’HRMC reveals a further slip-sliding of transactions compared with the same period last year as buyers and sellers continue to put big decisions like moving house on hold.

“For those who are brave enough to take the plunge, or who have simply had enough and want to get on with it, mortgages remain incredibly cheap.

“With fewer transactions happening, lenders are having to compete harder for business. With the exception of 10-year money, Swap rates have ticked up with three, five and 10-year swaps now cheaper than their two-year equivalents.

“Compared to where swaps were three months ago, lenders have been able to reduce their rates, and to some extent, maintain or make better returns.’

Gareth Lewis, commercial director of property lender MT Finance, commented: ’While HMRC is reporting nothing as dramatic as transactions falling off a cliff, the picture for the housing market is not that rosy either.

“However, one would expect a seasonal lull – it will be interesting to see where these numbers are at the back end of October and whether we get the bounce back that you would expect at that time of year.

“It is not all doom and gloom: as a lender we are reasonably busy – getting enquiries in and money out of the door, which are two barometers as to whether things are going ok.

“What is interesting is the spike in commercial property transactions, suggesting investors are diversifying into other areas.

“There isn’t enough detail here about what these transactions are but more activity is encouraging none the less.”

By Jessica Nangle

Source: Mortgage Introducer