Economic & Market Update
2017 was perhaps always expected to be an unpredictable year whilst Brexit uncertainties continued to dominate the news and certainly the second half of 2016 displayed this underlying uncertainty.
Nonetheless we continued to enjoy a market underpinned by record low interest rates for most of the year and continued falls in unemployment to record lows. The market had not predicted the snap election called for June 8th and whilst when originally announced the results seemed predictable, the result as we all learned was not and this continues to unsettle markets until Brexit negotiations are fully concluded.
In 2016, Britain and Germany were the fastest growing economies in the G7. 2017 has seen slower growth for the UK with growth for Q3 at 0.4% and a year on year growth figure of 2.3% as businesses delay investment plans and household incomes start to be squeezed by rising inflation. The UK inflation data as published by The Office for National Statistics indicated that The Consumer Price index (CPI) showed an annual rise of 3%, its highest level since March 2012, pushed ahead by rises in food prices resultant from the value of the pound against the dollar and euro. It is expected as these factors work through the system inflation is likely to start to fall back again. However the data was sufficient for the Bank of England to make its first increase in interest rates for 10 years when in November base rate was increased to 0.5%.
The unemployment rate has tumbled over the past four years from eight per cent in January 2013 to a 40-year low of 4.3 per cent although the pace of decline is now showing signs of easing back.
Forecasts for 2018 remain uncertain until the implications of Brexit become clearer, but demand for housing in the UK remains strong.
Latest data from the land registry published in November showed UK house price inflation at 5.4% taking the average UK house price to £226,367. Regional variations continued to be evident, with the largest growth being recorded in the North West where inflation stood at 7.3% with London at 2.5%.
The UK Property Transaction Statistics show that the number of seasonally adjusted transactions on UK properties with a value of £40,000 or greater increased by 4.6% between September 2016 and September 2017. However, comparing September 2017 with August 2017, the number of seasonally adjusted property transactions has decreased by 1.8%. Volumes in London in the period post the election also fell 13.7% in June and 24.5% in July.
House Price Inflation slowed to 5.4%
Whilst repossessions remain a feature of our auctions, currently representing 14% of the total stock offered, data from the Council of mortgage Lenders (CML) indicate repossession levels for the whole of 2017 are set to be just 6,500, a further reduction on the 2016 figure of 7,700 and a mere fraction of the total of 2009, when at the height of the financial crisis repossessions peaked at 48,900 and repossession stock in our auctions represented around a third of the total. The number of borrowers in arrears of 2.5% of the loan balance is also down again this year and stands at around 88,300 compared with a 2009 peak of 216,400. Interest rates rose following the Bank of England’s Monetary policy meeting in November and the base rate was restored to the pre referendum level of 0.5%. It remains uncertain what effect this may have on borrowers, but whilst employment remains strong any increase in possession levels seems set to be modest for the time being.
UK Property Auction Market
Data from the Essential Information Group who have recorded Property Auction performance across the whole of the UK since 1990 show that in the 12 month period to November 2017 the total number of properties offered at auction fell by 1.6% to 32,915 with the total number of recorded sales falling by 0.5% to 25,180. Set against all UK transaction levels currently around 1.15m cases per year, around 33,000 cases with a capital value of around £4.54bn are accounted for by auctions. We are delighted to see our own figures far outranking national averages with lots offered up 18% to 2,161 and lots sold up 17% to 1,565.