Property predictions: home truths and the great slowdown
A general election and plans for a mansion tax will cut growth next year to snail’s pace, even in London
Photo: © Peter Dazeley
By Anna White Senior City editor, The Telegraph
Discover more predictions for 2015
Britain does not have one housing market. Rather, it is a patchwork of mini-markets all behaving differently. At the centre of the quilt is Greater London. There, house prices have surged by 18.6 per cent in the past year, according to the Land Registry. Wales, by contrast, saw a 2 per cent rise in values in the 12 months to October.
Break it down to a local level and the contrast becomes even more stark. A 26.7 per cent rise in house prices in the London Borough of Lambeth. An 11.2 per cent fall in Merthyr Tydﬁl, south Wales. International and domestic demand in the capital and the South East, as well as ﬁrst-time buyer activity, have left the rest of the country behind.
Prices in Greater London sit 31 per cent above their 2007 peak, but the UK as a whole languishes 10 per cent below its last boom.
In fact, the Chancellor’s sweeping stamp-duty reforms have polarised the markets above and below the £1m mark, with a burst of activity expected in the mainstream market as the tax load has been lightened.
At the top end of the market, punitive stamp-duty charges will dampen demand further. While the Bank of England warned of the growing London house-price bubble last spring, even talk of a recovery in some areas was premature. Next year, one theme will unite the UK’s disparate patchwork of markets – snail’s-pace growth.
Those accustomed to making piles of cash by ﬂipping their property in just two years on interest-only mortgages must now sit tight. Credit availability will remain Scrooge-like in 2015, while house-price growth is likely to be ﬂat in London and marginal elsewhere.
The UK general election will have more bearing on the housing market than normal, particularly in London, home to a far higher proportion of property millionaires than outside the M25.
Labour’s pledge to introduce a mansion tax has worried homeowners with property over £2m and those below it who fear house-price creep. Not only will this suppress domestic activity but foreign investors will hold off, wary of the “Hollande effect”, as a Labour government could create a more punitive ﬁscal regime aimed at the rich.
The conversation around mansion tax alone has muted the market, while the message it sends to the rest of the world is loud and clear – London, the international city – is closed for business.
Other global economic factors may have an impact on investment in London, such as mounting dangers of deﬂation in the eurozone and China. These may strengthen London’s standing as an investment safe haven or mean there will be fewer players from Asia making their move in the UK.
Despite the complexity of the UK’s housing map, there is a correlation between London and the regions. As the capital stalls in the ﬁrst half of 2015, the ﬂow of London migrants cashing in on sky-high house prices and upsizing to the South-east and Midlands, will dry up. Expect to see growth of 0-3pc throughout England.
And now the good news: Britain’s chronic lack of housing will prop up house prices and prevent a post-spike crash. In property, there is always a silver lining.