Tag: Housing demand

There is no bigger purchase than a house. Ask most individuals who have at some point in their life purchased a house and they will tell you about the considerable time they devoted to making the decision to purchase. It’s not like rushing to a supermarket and purchasing a kilo of sugar. The decision to purchase a property is not taken lightly: the mood music has to be right. Consumer confidence is therefore an important ingredient for an active housing market. The latest mortgage approval data from the Bank of England suggest the music is not right!

April’s mortgage approval numbers continue to demonstrate the on-going fragility of the UK housing market and, in turn, of British households. April saw 45,166 mortgages approved for house purchase. What makes this figure particularly noteworthy is that it is the lowest level recorded in the month of April since the Bank of England figures started back in 1993. It is also 9% lower than April 2010. Some commentators have argued that the number of public holidays in April contributed to the fall in activity. But, 138,756 approvals over the period from February to April was 4.3% lower than over the corresponding period last year. This would suggest that we can’t lay the blame for low levels of mortgage approvals solely on hot cross buns and Kate Middleton!

The weakness in mortgage approvals data has been regular news for some time. Over the past two years the number of approvals per month has been close to 50K compared to about 89K over the past ten years. What makes the latest figures troubling is that there is no indication of recovery any time soon. Rather, the figures show that housing demand may be weakening yet again. If we exclude December’s low of 42,772, when housing market activity was hit by the harsh winter conditions, April’s figure is the lowest since March 2009.

The weakness in the demand for housing can in large part be attributed to the poor mood music: economic growth remains fragile, average real incomes have been declining and unemployment levels are expected to rise over the coming months. Furthermore, households are naturally reluctant to purchase property is they think house prices may fall further. All in all, we can expect the weakness in housing demand to persist for some time. The question seems to be one of just how weak housing demand will be. The next few months promise to be very interesting to say the least. Keep listening to the music!

Articles

UK mortgage approvals hit record low in April Telegraph, Emma Rowley and Harry Wilson (2/6/11)
Mortgage approvals fall to record April low Guardian, Mark King (1/6/11)
Mortgage approvals fall to two-year low Financial Times, Norma Cohen (1/6/11)
Mortgage approvals hit new low, Bank of England reports BBC News (1/6/11)
UK mortgage approvals drop to lowest in four months on lower confidence Bloomberg, Scott Hamilton (1/6/11) )
Pound drops on weak UK manufacturing PMI and mortgage approvals data RTT News (6/1/11)

Data

Mortgage approval numbers and other lending data are available from the Bank of England’s statistics publication, Monetary and Financial Statistics (Bankstats) (See Table A5.4.)

Questions

  1. How sensitive do you think mortgage approval numbers are likely to be both current and future economic conditions?
  2. Are there any other types of purchases which households make which you might expect to be especially sensitive to economic conditions?
  3. Is it just the weakness in the demand for housing which explains the current low levels of mortgage approvals? Explain your answer
  4. Do weak mortgage approval numbers mean that we should expect house prices to fall in the months ahead? Use demand and supply diagrams to help explain your answer.

The latest mortgage approval numbers from the Bank of England are another demonstration of the fragility of the UK housing market. March 2011 saw 47,577 mortgages approved for house purchase. This is roughly in line with levels seen since the turn of the year and, more generally, over the past year. In other words, activity in the housing market might be described as ‘flat-lining’.

Over the past year, the number of monthly mortgage approvals for house purchase has averaged 47,355. This number is almost half the 10-year monthly average of 89,258. There is little momentum in either direction in the number of mortgage approvals. Given the negative influences on both the supply of credit and on households’ demand for credit, it would be a major surprise if the monthly average for mortgage approvals was to rise much above the ‘50k-mark’ any time soon.

But, why the subdued mortgage data? Well, on the supply-side, mortgage lenders are maintaining tight lending criteria. On the demand side, households remain understandably cautious. Unless circumstances dictate a need to move, households are unlikely to be rushing in any great numbers to their local estate agent.

In conclusion, it appears that the current weak activity levels have become the new norm for the UK housing market post-credit crunch. Furthermore, the current flat-lining is likely to persist.

Articles

Mortgage approvals highest in five months Financial Times, Norma Cohen (4/5/11)
UK March mortgage approvals slightly lower than forecast Reuters (4/5/11)
Mortgage lending plummets by 60% Belfast Telegraph (5/5/11)
UK mortgage approvals little changed in March, BOE says Bloomberg, Jennifer Ryan (4/5/11)
Rise in mortgage approvals does not indicate recovery, say economists Guardian, Jill Insley (27/4/11) )
Mortgage lending from UK banks still subdued BBC News (27/4/11)

Data

Mortgage approval numbers and other lending data are available from the Bank of England’s statistics publication, Monetary and Financial Statistics (Bankstats) (See Table A5.4.)

Questions

  1. Why do you think housing market activity might be ‘flat-lining’?
  2. Compile a list those variables that you think affect the demand for mortgages. Which of these do you think are particularly important at the moment?
  3. Compile a list of those variables that you think affect the supply of mortgages by lenders. Which of these do you think are particularly important at the moment?
  4. If you were advising an estate agent about future activity levels in the housing market, what would you be telling them?
  5. What do recent mortgage approvals numbers imply for the strength of housing demand?

This week has seen the publications of two sets of forecasts on the UK housing market in 2011. The first of these came from Rightmove. It is forecasting that house prices next year could fall by as much as 5%. The extent of the fall though is argued to dependent, in part, on any rise in the Bank of England’s base rate and the number of properties taken into possession by lenders. These two factors are, of course, linked because higher debt-servicing costs can contribute to repossessions as the affordability of mortgages decrease. An increase in what are termed ‘forced sales’ will add to Rightmove’s general expectation of over-supply of property.

Righmove are expecting considerable local variations in house prices as a result of local demand and supply conditions. This makes forecasting a national average house price change extraordinarily difficult. It argues that the extent to which potential buyers are credit-constrained or to which demand is ‘credit crunch resistant’ varies across the country. This coupled with variations in the amount of supply to local markets will contribute to considerable differences in house price movements with house prices being ‘underpinned’ in some markets.

Rightmove is expecting the number of properties coming on to the housing market in 2011 to be around 1.2 million, 10% lower than in 2010. However, it is expecting only around 600,000 transactions which is close to half the historic average.

The second set of housing market forecasts this week was published by the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML). The CML is forecasting that low interest rates will help to underpin current house price values with ‘flat or modestly falling house prices’. They argue that that while recent house price weakness will persist they ‘do not foresee any sharp fall in prices’. The CML are not expecting large numbers of buyers to hold off from looking to buy, but acknowledge there is uncertainty about the availability and cost of mortgage funding.

One contributing factor to the uncertainty surrounding the quantity and price of mortgages is the end to the Bank of England’s Special Liquidity Scheme (SLS). The SLS allowed banks to swap for a period of up to 3 years financial assets, such as mortgage-backed securities (a security representing a claim on the cash flows from mortgage loans), for UK Treasury Bills (short-term government debt). The scheme was designed to provide the banking system with liquidity. The last swaps will expire in January 2012. The CML reports that currently about £130 billion needs to be repaid by banks. More generally, of course, financial institutions are likely in 2011 to continue repairing and rebalancing their balance sheets and this is likely to impact on their lending decisions.

We noted how the Rightmove house price forecast for 2011 was partly dependent on those forced sales arising from repossessions. The CML is expecting what it terms a ‘modest increase’ in the number of possessions from around 36,000 this year to 40,000 next year. The CML though expects the number of transactions in 2011 to be a little higher than Rightmove, albeit still historically low at around 860,000.

All in all, activity levels in the housing and mortgage markets in 2011 are expected to be relatively subdued. This coupled with the expectation that house prices will be lower in 2011 suggests a very sober outlook indeed for the UK housing market. Happy New Year!

Articles

Lenders forecast flat house prices Financial Times, Norma Cohen (14/12/10)
UK mortgage lending to fall to 30-year low Telegraph, Steven Swinford (15/12/10)
Repossessions to rise in 2011, lenders forecast BBC News (15/12/10)
Market freeze: Homes sold once in 20 years Sky News, Hazel Baker (15/12/10)
U.K. mortgage lending may decline by a third in 2011 as weakness persists Bloomberg, Scott Hamilton (15/12/10)
House prices fall faster as estate agent predicts worse to come Telegraph, Ian Cowie (13/12/10)
Home sellers warned to drop asking price by 5% if they want to find a buyer Daily Mail, Becky Barrow (13/12/10)
U.K. home sellers may cut prices by as much as 5% in 2011 after December drop Bloomberg, Scott Hamilton (13/12/10)

Housing market forecasts
Rightmove’s housing market forecasts can be found within the December 2010 edition of its House Price Index
Rightmove December 2010 House Price Index (13/12/10)
CML publishes 2011 market forecasts CML News and Views, Issue 24 (15/12/10)

Questions

  1. Compare and contrast the Rightmove and CML house price forecasts for 2011. How similar are the stories underpinning their forecasts?
  2. What do you understand by forced sales? Using a demand-supply diagram explore how an increase in properties taken into possession could impact on house prices in 2011.
  3. What do you think affordability means in the context of housing? How might we measure this?
  4. What factors do you think might impact on the price and availability of mortgage finance in 2011?
  5. What do you understand to be the purpose of the Bank of England’s Special Liquidity Scheme. Using a demand-supply diagram explore how the termination of the scheme early in 2012 could impact on house prices in 2011.
  6. What do you think Rightmove means by ‘credit crunch resistant’ housing demand?
  7. Can demand-supply analysis help to explain how house prices pressure could vary from one area to another? Explain your answer using appropriate diagrams.

House prices are in the news again, but that should come as no surprise because they are such a favourite topic of the British! Three different organisations – the Halifax Bank, the Nationwide Building Society and Rightmove – have all reported that house prices fell in November. The Halifax reported a 0.1% fall, the Nationwide a 0.3% fall and Rightmove a 3.2% fall. The Halifax and Nationwide base their figures on house price information supplied by prospective mortgage applicants while Rightmove report the average asking price of those putting their property on to the market. We should not worry too much about the variations in the magnitude of the reported price falls because the downward trend in house prices is now pretty well established. The Halifax, for instance, has reported five monthly falls since April and they estimate that the average house price over the three months to November is 0.7% lower than a year ago. While the other two organisations are still reporting annual house price inflation rates in positive territory, these rates too are edging closer and closer to negative territory.

The recent falls in house prices come after a rebound in prices in the second half of 2009 which carried on into the early months of this year. The Nationwide had annual house price inflation rates peaking in the spring at around the 10% mark. This appears to have reflected an increase in housing demand and can be seen in the Bank of England mortgage approval numbers for house purchase which recovered from as low as 26,702 in November 2008 to 59,215 in November 2009. By April, Rightmove was reporting that property supply was beginning to outstrip demand and in their May report they noted that suppliers were coming on to the market more quickly than at any time since June 2008. It is argued that supply increased further through late May and into June when the new coalition government suspended house information packs (HIPs). HIPs were a set of documents, including a property information questionnaire, which a seller needed to provide before a property could be marketed.

Rightmove reported in their November press release that the number of new sellers coming to the market each week between 10 October and 6 November averaged 24,028. This was a fall of 9.1% on the previous 4-week period. But, we need to see this reduction in the context of housing demand and the mortgage approvals numbers again provide clues as to the strength of housing demand. The fall in approvals in October to just 47,185 approvals was the sixth consecutive monthly fall. This number of approvals, as Rightmove note, is about half the monthly number of additional properties coming on to the market. In other words, the flow of properties coming on to the market is contributing to a large stock of properties on the books of estate agents. While some existing suppliers have been taking their property off the market, Rightmove note that the current average number of unsold properties on estate agents’ books is only a little down on the historic high reported a couple of months back. This leaves sellers fighting over a limited number of prospective buyers.

In the short term, the extent of further downward pressure on house prices will depend on extent of the imbalance between demand and supply. If a large number of suppliers begin to remove their property from the market, perhaps on the hope that the market will improve later next year, this would help to address the imbalance. Equally, if first-time buyers were to return to the market in larger numbers then that too would help to alleviate downward pressure on prices. The latter, however, is unlikely given the tight credit conditions which are resulting in potential first-time buyers struggling to find the deposit needed to get on to the property ladder. It seems that while many wannabe buyers of property may have a willingness to purchase, their ability to purchase continues to be frustrated by their inability to find the necessary deposit.

Articles

House prices slip further in November Financial Times, Norma Cohen (9/12/10)
Bonus for first-time buyers as house prices plummet for the third month in a row Daily Mail (9/12/10)
House prices drop fort he third month, has the bubble burst? London Daily News (9/12/10)
House prices fall 0.1% but hopes rise Independent, Peter Cripps (9/12/10)
House prices drop amid mortgage ‘deep freeze’ Telegraph, Myra Butterworth (9/12/10)

Data

Mortgage approval numbers are available from the Bank of England’s statistics publication, Monetary and Financial Statistics (Bankstats) (See Table A5.4.)
Halifax House Price Index Halifax (part of the Lloyds Banking Group)
Nationwide House Price Index Nationwide Building Society
Rightmove House Price Index Rightmove
Live Tables on Housing Market and House Prices Department of Communities and Local Government

Questions

  1. Tracking house prices is like following a roller-coaster ride! See if you can re-tell the story of UK house prices over the past year using demand and supply diagrams.
  2. Why do you think UK house prices are so volatile? Can you point to any other market where prices are so volatile? If so, do they share any common features?
  3. How important are first-time buyers in affecting house prices? What factors do you think affect the number of prospective first-time buyers deciding to enter the housing market?
  4. Using a demand and supply diagram illustrate the effect on house prices of: (i) a tightening of financial institutions’ lending criteria; (ii) the expectation of forthcoming house price falls; and (iii) increasing economic confidence .
  5. Although UK house prices are volatile they do increase over the longer-term and by more than the average price of consumer goods and services. What might explain this?
  6. What do we mean by a demand-supply imbalance? Would you expect this imbalance to continue?
  7. The average house price is currently falling. But, different housing markets will have their own price patterns. What might explain any differences in house price patterns across different housing markets?

The latest mortgage approval numbers from the Bank of England continue to demonstrate the fragility of the UK housing market and, in particular, waning levels of activity. The 47,474 approvals in September was the lowest number since February. The downward momentum in approvals has gained pace in recent months. The number of approvals in Q3 was 2.9% lower than in Q2 and was 11.5% lower than in Q3 of last year. All of this provides evidence that housing demand is weakening.

Tight credit conditions have affected the supply of mortgages for some time and, as a consequence, negatively impacted on the number of house buyers. This is likely to be especially true for potential first-time buyers who have no housing equity with which to help purchase property. But, the marked downward momentum in mortgage approvals is reflecting a weakening in housing demand.

So what explains this weakening of housing demand? In part, it is likely to be current economic conditions. But, expectations of future economic conditions are crucially important in determining activity levels in the housing market. With concerns about future economic growth it would be no surprise if households are feeling more than a little cautious about their spending plans and about their household finances. Economic uncertainty amongst households does not bode well for activity levels in the housing market. If this line of thinking is right we can expect mortgage approvals numbers to remain subdued for some time to come.

Articles

Drop in mortgages sparks concerns over house price falls The Herald, Ian McConnell (30/10/10)
Housing dip feared as mortgage approvals stall Guardian, Mark King (29/10/10)
UK mortgage approvals decline Irish Times (29/10/10)
Net mortgage lending slumps to just £112 million Independent, James Moore (30/10/10)
Mortgage approvals lowest since Feb Reuters (29/10/10)

Data

Mortgage approval numbers and other lending data are available from the Bank of England’s statistics publication, Monetary and Financial Statistics (Bankstats) (See Table A5.4.)

Questions

  1. What variables do you think will affect the demand for mortgages?
  2. What variables do you think will affect the supply of mortgages by lenders?
  3. What do you understand by housing and mortgages being complementary products? Why might the complementary relationship between housing and mortgages be stronger for first-time buyers?
  4. If housing demand weakens, would we expect house prices to fall? Are there circumstances when a weakening of demand might not translate into lower house prices? Illustrate your answer using demand and supply diagrams.