What’s in store?
Economic uncertainty has dominated headlines over the last 12 months, making the art of predicting how the housing market will turn a remarkably difficult job. We’ve found four experts willing to give it a go:
1.Ray Boulger, senior technical manager, John Charcol
“I expect Bank Rate to remain at 0.5% throughout 2013 and at some stage during the year the Bank of England (BoE) to take further action to boost the economy, possibly using more Quantitative Easing, or another tranche of Funding for Lending, towards the end of the year. As a result I expect fixed rate mortgages to continue to be offered at rates close to, and in some cases a little below, current rates throughout 2013. The biggest risk by some distance is the euro crisis. If a Greek exit occurs during 2013 the key question will be how bad the contagion is.
“If the market starts to bet on more countries leaving the eurozone the impact will be very serious. The BoE appears to be ready to provide support to the banks and building societies in that eventuality but nevertheless there will be a negative impact on mortgage lending and hence the housing market. The economy is likely to show very little growth in 2013 and so consumer confidence is unlikely to recover much, but likewise also unlikely to decline any further.
“I expect the buy-to-let market to continue to grow. 70% of the £5.6bn increase in gross mortgage lending in 2011 was in buy-to-let mortgages and 50% of the likely £4bn increase in 2012 lending will have been buy to let. The demographic factors boosting demand in the private rental sector over the last few years will continue to be relevant over the next few years and so this market will continue to expand. I expect house prices at the end of 2013 will be slightly higher on the back of continuing low interest rates and a modest improvement in mortgage availability, but there will continue to be significant regional variations.”
2.Miles Shipside, housing analyst
“We have a new norm in the mortgage market, namely: restricted transactions levels because of restricted mortgage finance, and a lack of house price growth which prevents people from trading up, because they can’t raise sufficient equity.
“We’re closer to recovery but that doesn’t mean we haven’t got several more years of a challenging market. However, we have seen patches of activity, mainly in cash-rich and deposit-rich areas of the country, especially London. The BoE and the Government need to carefully retain credibility and confidence. I see interest rates staying the same for the next couple of years, unless the BoE is forced to raise them because of a lack of confidence in the pound. Consumers are getting used to uncertainty and some of them are getting on with their lives. Families are growing and house moves need to be made, albeit within more restrained means than previously.
“Unemployment isn’t as high as people thought and if neither it nor inflation shoots up, then I think the housing market will recover slowly. Households are still being formed and people need housing, and the demand for rental property is likely to be higher. I see the buy-to-let market growing as it offers more attractive returns to those with funds then keeping your money in the bank.
“According to our research, the number of first-time buyers is half that of pre-2007 levels. But of those who say they will buy in the next 12 months, 78 per cent say they have a 10 per cent or greater deposit target.”
3.Martin Ellis, housing economist, Halifax
“We think the economy will improve in 2013, slowly and steadily. As recovery builds momentum it should help stabilise confidence, but we’re not expecting any great turnarounds. We expect the economy and earnings growth to remain weak and unemployment to remain relatively high. I imagine we will probably muddle through and that the euro will remain intact pretty much as it is. We do accept that there is a great deal of risk and uncertainty attached to that, so that is highlighted as a key risk to the housing market and the economy in general.
“We expect to still see the North/South divide during next year and the market to be firmest in London and the South East. We expect interest rates to remain low in 2013. Schemes like Funding for Lending should help to reduce some of the constraints on mortgage availability.
“We’re beginning to see some signs of mortgage rates coming down and we would expect there to be a little more availability but again, it’s likely to be marginal rather than anything large scale.
“We think the credit conditions will ease a little bit in the course of next year but we’re unlikely to see the market returning back to 95 per cent loan-to-value lending.
“The buy-to-let market has been the brightest spot in terms of the housing market, and I expect that to continue. With potential first-time buyers locked out of owner-occupied market its clearly meaning that there is a strong pool of demand for rental accommodation, which will put upward pressure on rents which will attract buy-to-let investors.
“If we saw an environment where unemployment rose sharply and interest rates rose and people couldn’t keep up with their mortgage payments then we would see the dynamics change considerably. But we don’t see this happening. I still see tough conditions for first-time buyers, they’ll still need sizeable deposits, and they also face the added pressure of increasing rents which will make it that much harder to save towards a deposit.”
4.Simon Checkley, director, Private Finance
“Funding for Lending is having a positive impact on mortgage availability. But we don’t know the unknowns around the corner, like the issues with the euro. If there aren’t any nasty shocks in the economy, I imagine that the market will gradually improve and the mortgage market will become slightly more competitive.
“I don’t think consumer confidence will greatly improve, not while we continue to see falls in the average house prices. “The buy-to-let market looks reasonably attractive when compared to other investment opportunities. There are reasonable yields to be had in the sector and there are good purchase opportunities too.
“Generally, I think that this time next year we will be more optimistic based upon what we have experienced in 2013. But I wouldn’t expect any major turnaround in the course of the year. If we can end up in the back end of next year with a little growth in house prices and more importantly transactions, I think we would be reasonably content.”