Activity in the UK housing market during the first few weeks of January often sets the tone for the whole year, though the 2021 outlook is somewhat muddied by the challenges of the pandemic and by the 31st March stamp duty holiday deadline. However, two main things stand out.

Firstly, sellers who have come to the market are continuing to price very competitively, with some perhaps still hoping to find a buyer and complete before the tax-saving cut-off, though the odds are now against them. Newly marketed property asking prices are down by an average of 0.9% (-£2,887) on the month.

Secondly, buyer activity has continued to exceed the same period a year ago, being buoyed by the post-election ‘Boris bounce’. That ‘Boris bounce’ ended abruptly with the first lockdown in March and the temporary closure of the housing market but was followed by a far stronger resurgence as people reassessed their housing needs and priorities following their experience of lockdown. With another long lockdown upon us, there are early signs that we are surpassing 2020’s new-year surge in activity, with the number of prospective buyers contacting agents between 2nd and 12th January up by 12% and sales agreed numbers up by 9% on the comparable period last year.

The latest Rightmove analysis shows that it is now taking 126 days from the time an offer is accepted until legal completion, just over four months. This means that new buyers in the market should not be factoring in any stamp duty savings, unless they are first-time buyers, who will still be mainly exempt after the March deadline has passed.

Of those already in the sales agreed pipeline, now at 613,000 in our latest count, Rightmove’s analysis projects that around 100,000 will miss out on their stamp duty saving. Seller flexibility to re-negotiate will be key to preventing some sales from falling through for this group.

However, it should also be remembered that the surge in buyer demand after the first lockdown in 2020 was initially driven by movers’ changed housing needs, and thus started a couple of months before the July introduction of the stamp duty holidays. The combination of the two resulted in an amazing recovery in 2020 activity despite the pandemic, with the number of sales agreed up by 10% compared to the whole of 2019.

House Price Index

North West:

Average House Price: £210,365

Monthly Change: -2.1%

Annual Change: 7.0%

Yorkshire and Humberside:

Average House Price: £202,608

Monthly Change: -2.2%

Annual Change 6.3%

West Midlands:

Average House Price: £244,233

Monthly Change: 0.6%

Annual Change: 6.1%

London:

Average House Price: £604,055

Monthly Change: -2.7%

Annual Change: -1.4%

 

Original Content take from Rightmove House Price Index – January 2021.

Annual UK house price inflation +3.9%

The annual rate of UK house price growth has moved higher to +3.9% in November up from +1.3% a year ago. The 3-month growth rate peaked at 2% in September and has slowed, suggesting annual growth will start to plateau at c.5% in 2021 Q1.

The impetus for house price growth is coming from northern England and Wales where affordability remains less of a barrier to price growth. Average prices in the North West are increasing at 5% and at a city level, Manchester is registering growth of 5.7% followed by Leeds, Nottingham and Liverpool all recording growth over 5% per annum.

Demand for housing 40% higher over 2020 than 2019

Market conditions remained strong as we approached the festive period; although demand has slowed since the summer yet remains 33% higher than a year ago when the General Election impacted levels of activity.

Over the whole of 2020 the demand for housing increased by 40% compared to 2019. The flow of new supply onto the market has been 4% higher than 2019 and this supply/demand mismatch explains why house price growth is increasing.

South of England leads the recovery in new sales

New sales agreed continue to run ahead of last year by over 40%, in line with above average demand. During 2020 9% more new sales agreed in 2020 compared to 2019. These sales will convert into completions after circa 3-4 months so a proportion of these new sales will not complete until 2021. The rebound in sales has been strongest in the South East and Eastern regions where they are more than 20% higher than 2019.

Value of sales agreed in 2020 is 26% higher than 2019

A combination of more sales at higher prices means the total value of residential property that has changed hands in 2020 is 26% higher than last year. This equates to an additional £62bn of sales which takes the annual total value to over £300bn.

This will significantly boost estate agency revenues and explains why the value of mortgage approvals for home purchase in October is 68% higher than a year ago (reflecting sales agreed 2-3 months prior, in the peak of the rebound).

Strong start to 2021 Q1

As households look to the future, and with no immediate end in sight to restrictions, a proportion will continue to re-assess their housing priorities.

Stamp duty is a factor supporting demand, but we have questioned the scale of the importance. A recent consumer survey by Zoopla found that 44% of movers’ plans were not influenced by the stamp duty holiday -they remain focused on the need to relocate and find more space and a better location.

We expect a seasonally strong start to 2021 with older, equity rich, long-time owning households continuing to take a growing share of sales. Improved availability of higher loan to value mortgages for those with deposits of 10% or more are already increasing which will support first time buyers in 2021.

House Price Index – Country, region and city summary

The latest House Price Index from November indicates that Manchester witness the highest annual house price growth at 5.7%, followed by Leeds at 5.6%, and Nottingham at 5.4% to round up the top three highest performing UK Cities. House prices in capital only increase by 2.8% YoY, with the average price of a house in London costing £485,100.

At a regional level, house prices in the North West have increased by 5% YoY, similar YoY growth was also witnessed in Yorkshire and Humber where house prices increase by 4.9%. The West Midlands including Birmingham had a YoY house price growth of 4.0% and the Greater London region house prices increased by 3.0% YoY.

Original content taken from Zoopla’s UK cities house price index report, November 2020

New regulations being implemented on 25 November 2020 will allow non-UK nationals in England to evidence their status for Right to Rent through a digital Home Office check and reduce letting agent workloads. Going forwards, the new system will mean that these digital checks specifically, can be conducted permanently via video call, with no need for letting agents to review documents.

New Process

The system will clearly display whether follow up checks are required and provide a record of the check for the agent to store. Some additional checks will still require documents from letting agents, as not everyone will currently have an immigration status that can be checked online. Therefore, agents must be prepared to continue conducting traditional checks involving the original documents.

Digital Checks Required

Groups that may present you with a share code for a digital check are:

  • Non-EEA nationals with a current biometric resident permit or card;
  • EEA nationals and their family members with status granted under the EU Settlement Scheme;
  • Those with status under the points-based immigration system;

 

The Home Office has updated the existing Code of Practice, and these include reference to the status of visitor nationals – known as B5JSSK nationals – from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the USA, which were introduced in July 2019.

A new Short Guide to Right to Rent has also been published, within which, the existing visual reference tool designed to provide examples of relevant identity documents has also been updated.

Where can a tenant/applicant obtain a ‘share code’?

The share code for these new digital checks for tenants/applicants to use can be created via the following link: https://www.gov.uk/prove-right-to-rent

Where can I view a tenant’s/applicant’s right to rent? 

You will be able to view a tenant’s/applicant’s right to rent via the following link: https://www.gov.uk/view-right-to-rent

What about Brexit?

Brexit is another external force which may yet have an impact on how these checks take place and the criteria which applicants should meet. Before the UK’s transition period comes to an end, we will continue the right to rent checks with nationals of the European Union as per the current requirements. EU, EEA and Swiss citizens living in the UK by 31 December 2020 will have until 30 June 2021 to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme.

Until this deadline, landlords can accept passports and national identity cards of citizens from these areas as evidence of their right to rent during this period. After this period, the government has announced a new points-based immigration system to come into force on 1 January 2021, which will require proof of a job offer at the required skill level from an approved sponsor, and that they speak English. However, the right to rent checks have still not been explicitly defined after the deadline for the EU Settlement Scheme passes.

If you would like to find out more information regarding these changes, please complete the below contact form and a member of our team will be in touch.

Their latest research provides insights into the annual change in rental growth across the UK, regional and city-level market insight data and their predicted outlook for the rental market in the coming months.

Two-speed market

Average UK rents outside London rose by 0.7% in the three months to September, taking the annual growth rate to 1.7%. Rental growth remains in positive territory across most regions and cities in the UK. This is in sharp contrast to London, where rents fell by -3.2% in Q3, taking the annual decline to -5.2% at the end of December.

This two-speed market is likely to be entrenched during the additional lockdowns in England and across the regions, which will exacerbate the trends which is causing the split in rental performance, especially as more people work from home.

Demand and Supply

Rental growth is being underpinned in many areas by the continued imbalance between tenant demand and the supply of rental properties, with rents rising in most cities across the UK. Renter demand has moderated from the highs seen in early summer after the first lockdown ended, but year on year, demand is still around 20% higher than in the same period in 2019.

The challenges in the mortgage market for first-time buyers trying to obtain a home loan, given the current squeeze on lending for those with smaller deposits, means that many of these aspiring homeowners will be staying in the rental market for longer, underpinning demand. This comes as overall supply into the rental market from individual landlords has been constrained. The return of students to University as usual in the Autumn will also have boosted demand in the rental sector.

Rental growth is being underpinned where demand is outstripping supply. In the West Midlands, rents in Birmingham, the largest rental market in the region, narrowly dipped into negative territory in September. The city may be starting to feel the impact of changing working patterns, with demand in some city centres being affected by limited office attendance, as well as new-build supply coming into the market creating more choice. In the North West, rents have increase by 1.8% although rents in Manchester dipped slightly by -0.1%.

There is also increasing sensitivity about rental levels in some regional and city markets due to muted earnings growth. Average pay in the private sector fell in real terms in April, according to the latest official data, and this pressure on wages is likely to have continued through the summer. These factors could cause a gradual slowing in rental growth in the months to come, but the UK market outside the capital will still outperform London.

London focus

The rental declines in the capital reflect the changing picture on working and commuting patterns and tourism. At the start of lockdown, there was a shift from short-lets to long-lets, especially in the centre of the city, pushing up supply in the sector which is still being absorbed.

The market is highly localised however, with the balance between supply and demand a key factor determining the movement in rents. The central London rental market is being affected by the changes in working trends, with rental property typically used by workers staying in town for part of the week coming back to the market as many continue to work from elsewhere. The muted tourism during Summer and Autumn mean that any short-let landlords who had not switched into a long-let option may be choosing to do this now.

Demand remains stronger for rental property in outer London boroughs however, stretching supply and underpinning rental growth. The housing stock available in mid and outer London zones, with more houses and outside space, also fits with the search for space being seen across the rental market as a whole. The data suggests that landlords in the rented housing market are making fewer cuts to asking price, highlighting demand in this sector. This also underlines the fact that headline rents in London are covering markets which are becoming more distinct, namely rented single-family houses, single-family flats and houses of multiple occupation.

 London exodus?

There has been an uptick in activity in some more suburban or urban rental markets, reflecting a cohort of renters who are choosing to make a change to how and where they live. However, the data shows that most Londoners are looking for rental property within the capital, so the idea of a large-scale move from London is probably an overstatement. The proportion of Londoners looking to stay in the city has risen compared to last year.

 Search for Space across the country

Just as in the sales market, the data indicates that renters across the UK are also reassessing the property in which they live. In some markets, rented houses are now being snapped up more quickly than flats, indicating the additional space, often with a garden, is increasingly attractive for renters. The average time taken to rent a house is now 16 days, down from 20 days last year. The time between listing a flat and let agreed is 18 days, also down from 20 days last year.

The most popular search terms for rental property also reflect the emphasis on space for renters, with Gardens, Parking, Garage and Balcony, topping the list. The fifth most popular search term is pets, with renters looking for pet-friendly accommodation.

Outlook for rents

The two-speed market across the UK is likely to remain in the coming months, as the lockdowns across the regions entrench some of the trends around working and commuting patterns seen during the previous lockdown and over the summer.

However, moving into next year, more large urban centres could see supply start to catch up with demand, especially in the city centres, which could put downward pressure on rental growth. There will also be more turnover in some parts of the market once the eviction bans are repealed into next year. Earnings growth, which is set to be subdued this year, is forecast to pick up again in 2021, however. This could allow more headroom for rental growth in some areas, especially if there is a return to more frequent office working.

Original content taken from Zoopla’s Market Rent Report, November 2020.

 

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According to LonRes’s Market Report 2020, the introduction of new additional restrictions in the capital, people’s homes have become more of a haven than ever. Therefore, buyers and renters continue to prioritise searching for a property that is capable of adapting to their changing needs.

Meaning that despite ongoing economic uncertainty, buyers and prospective vendors are continuing to drive into the market. This has resulted in an increased number of properties going under offer for the third consecutive month in September, and the number of homes coming to market almost doubling on 2019 levels.

For rentals, those markets which appeal to domestic tenants, such as the outer London Boroughs, are more balanced in terms of supply and demand. Yet, we are still witnessing the volume of new instructions outpace new lets agreed, which has impacted achieved rents again during September.

Sales Market:

Despite the slight downfall with new instructions between March and May, the first nine months of 2020 saw a 19% increase in the number of new properties coming onto the market compared to the same period in 2019. August and September were both particularly busy for the London with the number of instructions in September this year were almost double compared to September 2019. Demand during September remained strong, with the number of offers being accepted on properties rose by 21% compared to 2019 – but the lengthier periods between offers being accepted and home exchanging contracts during September was 18% lower than last year.

Looking ahead, if current trends continue, we expect more activity in markets which appeal predominantly to domestic buyers. Yet despite a question mark over the ability to travel to and from London, the combination of stamp duty saving, the introduction of additional charges for overseas buyers in April 2021 and a weaker pound could prove tempting for overseas buyers. These factors combined could see many international buyers making savings of up to 40% off the price they would have paid at the peak in 2014.

In Rightmove’s latest House Price Index for October 2020, the average house prices in London has risen by 2.6% compared to last year and currently stands at £634,399. The average time to secure a buyer in London is currently sitting at 48 days – the second lowest after Scotland on 31 days and on par with the West Midlands.

Within the same report, it was highlighted that the current momentum has been caused by the combination of pent-up and new demand has led to new records in several key metrics, and as a result Rightmove forecasts that the annual rate of increase will rise further before the year-end and peak at around 7%. The forecasting rulebook has been rewritten in this extraordinary year, with predictions of a post-lockdown price plunge in quarter three failing to materialise.

Lettings Market:

London is a truly international city, with the ability to attract new residents from across the globe, but with current restrictions on travel and movement, set by both the UK government and by their home nations it is also more vulnerable to changing levels of demand.

Rightmove is reporting in it’s Q3 2020 Rental Price Tracker that London is only region where rents are falling – down by 6.8% in Inner London, while rents in Outer London are up by 0.8%. Asking rents have been falling since the beginning of lockdown in the capital, and are now an average of £110 per month lower than back at the start of lockdown. Looking at property types in London, asking rents of studio flats are 3.5% lower than this time last year, one-bedroom flats are down by 3%, and two-bedroom flats are down 4%. Two-bedroom houses are faring better, up by 0.7%.

The total rental stock in London in September has increased by 80% compared to 2019 – with the available stock levels for studio apartments doubling as people look for spare rooms to set up space to work from home.

It’s hoped that this momentum continues into October but realistically current stock levels combined with lower levels of demand, particularly in those markets more reliant on overseas tenants will, we expect, put further pressure on rents as we move through autumn and into the winter market.

If you would like to speak to a member of our expert lettings team in London regarding your investment property or would like to find out more about our service offering in London, please complete the below contact form.