Annual house price growth figures returned to double digits in April but there are warnings that this could be as good as it gets.
The latest Land Registry House Price Index shows UK house prices increased by 12.4% in the year to April 2022 – up from 9.7% a month before – to £281,161.
Average prices were up 1.1% on a monthly basis, up from 0.3% in March.
Sales volumes fell annually across the UK, albeit compared with the busy stamp duty holiday period.
Transactions decreased by 31.7% in England, 0.6% in Scotland and fell by 9.1% in Wales.
Northern Ireland’s volume transactions decreased by 19.3%.
Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst for Hargreaves Lansdown, said the current market is likely to be weaker.
She said: “House prices have only risen faster than this once since the onset of the pandemic, and that was in the frantic rush of June 2021 when the stamp duty holiday’s most generous period was coming to an end. It has pushed house prices to an incredible new high.
“Meanwhile, homeowners are benefitting from one of the side-effects of inflation, in that the real value of their mortgage is dropping. It fell 9.1% over the past 12 months, even before they made a single repayment.
“However, this could be as good as it gets for property owners. These figures reflect house purchase decisions made much earlier, when we had only had the very first of the interest rate rises, and the full horror of the energy price cap hadn’t kicked in.
“In many cases, buyers will have made an offer before the invasion of Ukraine, and well before it had a chance to feed so spectacularly into inflation.
“There’s every chance we will see more weakness in the May figures. Both the Nationwide and Halifax indices now run to May, and both have fallen back. In both cases, price rises are still unusually high, but the direction of travel is worth keeping an eye on. “
Lawrence Bowles, director of research at Savills, added: “The strong annual price growth reported in this month’s figures reflects the data no longer including a month of price falls from last year rather than further acceleration now.
“As each new month’s data comes in, we gain a month’s price growth and lose the equivalent month’s price growth from last year and that can give a distorted picture of current growth trends.
“The latest UK mainstream house price forecasts from property group Savills expect average values to rise by a total of 7.5% in 2022, as affordability pressures are expected to substantially moderate further price growth for the remainder of this year.
“However, news that the Bank of England will remove current affordability testing from August could mitigate some of the impact of higher interest rates, and, in theory, could open a little more capacity for house price growth beyond this year.”
Agents also responded to say this data doesn’t fully reflect the currently reality.
Simon Gerrard, managing director of Martyn Gerrard Estate Agents and Abbeytown Ltd, said: “These figures, which represent the market between April 2021 and April 2022, don’t quite reflect what we’re seeing on the ground today – as we now face soaring inflation, a cost of living crisis and rising interest rates.
“There are significant challenges facing the housing market as we move towards the summer slowdown.
“Mortgage lending is already down and, with interest rates set to continue their upward trajectory, some buyers are finding themselves locked-out of the market amid higher repayments and tighter affordability rules.
“However demand is still vastly outpacing supply of available homes and as long as this market imbalance continues, prices will remain high.
“Make no mistake, alarm bells should be ringing within government over this housing supply crisis. If the market is to become more accessible, the only viable solution is to relax planning laws to help stimulate supply across the country.”
Agency trade body Propetymark struck a slightly more positive tone.
Nathan Emerson, chief executive of Propertymark , said: “The cost-of-living pressures will inevitably start to show up in the housing market, however, for now our member agents are saying buyers continue to outnumber available properties by around 10 to 1, and that 80% of accepted offers are at or over asking prices.
“Mortgage rates are rising but from an historically low base so we are not seeing a major impact on the market just yet.
“It looks likely there will be more increases in the coming months so there will be buyers who may want to enter the market before rates go even higher. That’s going to continue to fuel demand and keep sold prices well up year-on-year for a little while yet.”