House price growth stalls

Northern Ireland house prices were the strongest performing in the UK during 2017 with a 5.8% increase to an average of £139,599 research has found

United Kingdom house prices fell by 0.7 per cent in December, as prices' annual growth rate dropped to its lowest level in nearly six years.

Housing prices fell to £212,281 on average in December, compared to £214,044 the previous month, the Swindon-based building society said in a December 2018 report.

According to the Nationwide survey, annual house price growth UK-wide slowed from 1.9% in November to 0.5% in December.

Nationwide's chief economist Robert Gardner said the findings were not wholly unexpected, but that conditions may just be favouring buyers confident enough to make a move at a traditionally quiet time of year.

"We would expect United Kingdom house prices to rise at a low single-digit pace in 2019", he said.

"Despite slow house price growth, mainly pulled down by the capital, the UK's property market fundamentals are attractive, with interest rates historically low and "help to buy" schemes extended, indicating a potentially more positive start for the year ahead".

Across the United Kingdom, the average house price stood at £212,281 in December, down from £214,044 in November.

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The Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, said last month that in the event of a "disorderly" departure from the European Union - not the central bank's base-case scenario - house prices could slump by 30% as part of a broader economic shock. The uncertainty of Brexit is also denting demand and clouding the economic outlook.

He said there have been indications a softening in the housing market was likely, including weakened consumer confidence.

The North South house price gap continues to narrow with northern regions growing between 3% and 4%, whilst prices in the south have moderated throughout the year.

The weakest performer regionally for annual house price growth was the Outer Metropolitan area, which includes Reading, Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead and Wokingham. "This is going to put incredible pressure on those in power to keep greasing the wheels with stamp duty reliefs and Help to Buy even though many believe they are counterproductive and slightly unsafe ways of fanning the flames of house price growth in the long term".

"Unfortunately, they are confirming a bit of a wake-up call for the housing market in that after steady progress, without much change one way or the other, prices have experienced a nasty bump".

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, says: "Despite the political challenges in 2018, the housing market held up pretty well with low mortgage rates supporting activity".

'As long as borrowers can meet affordability criteria, whether they are taking out a new mortgage or switching to another deal, there will be plenty to attract them for a while yet, ' he said.

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