House prices have fallen for a second month in a row, according to the latest (November) House Price Index from Nationwide, which showed prices had fallen by 0.22% on a monthly basis to £214,044, following a 0.18% drop in October and taking average property prices to a six-month low.
The last time they were so low was in May 2018 when the average price was £213,618. However, Nationwide’s figures showed that average prices are up 1.9% annually, compared to November 2017.
Jonathan Hopper, managing director at Garrington Property Finders, said of the data: “Amid the thousands of mind games played every day between sellers and buyers, the one imponderable in the current atomised market is what constitutes a fair price. As the Nationwide data shows, the dearth of supply has at least put a floor under prices. But such national averages say little about the contradictory conditions we're experiencing on the front line.
“At one extreme we’re seeing increasing numbers of opportunistic, frequently cash, buyers emerging to snap up homes at large discounts. Meanwhile there are many more would-be sellers who are hunkering down and waiting until things improve before putting their home on the market.
“Some optimists have ventured that Mark Carney’s warning this week that house prices could tumble by almost a third in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit might spur some of these hesitant sellers into action. While the 'Armageddon' scenarios run by Mr Carney will be brushed off by many as unlikely, they will further sober the thinking of overoptimistic sellers and cautious buyers.
“For now, his comments have served only to dial up the uncertainty - and the pattern of subdued business as usual continues. Despite the shortage of homes for sale, a steady stream of strategic buyers are pouncing on buying opportunities that may not be around if the market normalises in 2019.”
Lucy Pendleton, director at independent estate agents James Pendleton, added: “Fast forward one month and if the needle on the annual growth rate doesn’t move, then Nationwide will have been 100% wrong. The lender’s prediction of a 1% increase for house prices in 2018 is starting to look a little shaky on paper but, in truth, there’s not actually much in it.
“Run the numbers and, in fact, the average house price will only have to drop £776 over the next month for them to be right on the money. It takes a brave economist to make public predictions like this and a sizeable chunk of political uncertainty thanks to Brexit may well have helped this one stand the test of time. Annual growth remains stuck near five year lows and those clouds are unlikely to clear until politics gets off the doorstep.”
Paresh Raja, CEO at bridging-lender Market Financial Solutions, said: “These latest figures come at a critical time for the UK property market, with Brexit clearly playing on the minds of buyers and sellers. Similar to what we saw in October, house prices have remained subdued with modest month-on-month growth.
“This should not be a cause for concern - the current imbalance between supply and demand means that house prices will remain stable even during this period of market uncertainty. And compared to the performance of other assets, real estate has certainly not lost its appeal. Indeed, as the HPI shows, house prices have in fact risen by close to 2% over the last 12 months. “All eyes now turn to 11 December when Theresa May's proposed withdrawal agreement will be voted on by Parliament. Should it not pass, we're likely to face a period of prolonged uncertainty, and this will no doubt prompt many people to hold back on their planned real estate investments until there is more clarity on how Brexit will be managed.”
However, Paul Smith, chief executive at haart estate agents, suggested the uplift in annual growth showed buyers were ignoring the “Brexit hysteria”. He said: “Evidently, buyers are not caught up in the Brexit hysteria and are willing to pay more for their property, especially in the Midlands where prices are rising fastest.
“This week Mark Carney released his doomsday analysis of a ‘no deal’ Brexit which included claims of a house price crash. But we’ve heard this all before. In 2016 the Treasury said house prices would fall by 10% in the immediate aftermath of a vote to leave. Today they are 9% higher than June 2016.
“The reality is that good Brexit deal or bad Brexit deal, the need to move home will always be there for a whole host of reasons, including for good schools, new jobs and better transport links. However, we cannot escape the fact that the property market is heavily driven by sentiment. In October the number of people registering to buy a home at our branches was up 37% on the year, but transactions are not keeping pace.”