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House prices stagger in August, but will they stand or fall?


The start of the fall or a stumble on the way? That's the question experts are asking after the latest figures showed house prices were a shade lower in August than July

A man looks in an estate agents window
Waiting for the fall

The latest report into August house prices shows a small drop compared with July and the lowest annual growth for almost three years.

Halifax's monthly house price survey found August prices were 0.2% lower than those in July and just 6.9% up on August the year before – the smallest annual rise since October 2013.

“House price growth continued the trend of the past few months in August with a further moderation in both the annual and quarterly rates of increase,” said Halifax housing economist Martin Ellis.

“There are also signs of a softening in sales activity.”

How big a problem is there?

The question is whether this is a blip or the start of a trend.

Halifax isn't too bothered. “Increasing difficulties in purchasing a home as house prices continued to increase more quickly than earnings were expected to constrain demand, curbing house price growth,” Ellis explained.

But others see more worrying signs.

“There have been a number of external factors that have chipped away at the property market in recent months, from the additional Stamp Duty charge to Brexit, with the traditional summer slowdown weighing in as well,” said Ian Thomas, from online mortgage lender LendInvest.

The case for business as usual

Of course, house sales always drop in the summer months, as people head off on holiday, before picking up again in the autumn as people looking to move try to get deals done before Christmas.

“Although on the face of it, this may seem like validation of the Brexit inspired Blues that have plagued the media over recent months, this decrease is nothing more than a seasonal adjustment due to the slower pace of the market during the summer months,” said chief executive Russell Quirk.

“It may seem like Britain’s decision to leave the EU is starting to take its toll on the UK property market, but in reality, the timing of the referendum vote is just coincidental with the type of market movement traditionally experienced during July and August.”

Thomas agreed.

“September will be a useful barometer for what comes next for the property market, as transactions tend to pick up once the holiday period is over,” he said.

“Nonetheless the fundamentals of the property market are unchanged - we do not have enough homes, and we aren’t building enough homes to address that shortage. That will act as a brake on any house price softening in the months to come.”

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