Tag: Housing supply

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.

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?

Some numbers are a newspaper editor’s dream! One such number this week was -3.6%. This was the fall in house prices in September reported by the Halifax (part of the Lloyds Banking Group). This certainly helped to alert a large audience to the downward momentum in house price growth that has been underway since about the start of the summer. While the Nationwide Building Society reported a 0.1% rise in September it is significant that both Halifax and Nationwide estimate that across the three months to September house prices actually fell by around 0.9%. In other words, the average UK house price fell by 0.9% in the third quarter of the year.

The annual rate of house price inflation, as the name suggests, compares house prices with the same point in time a year ago. The impact of the house price falls in the third quarter has been to reduce the annual rate of house price inflation to around the 3% mark. While the annual rate is still in positive territory, an obvious concern is how long this will be the case. Well, we can expect the annual rate to fall further because the UK saw strong house price growth in the final quarter of 2009 – the Nationwide estimates this to have been 2.2%. If I (Dean) was to throw my hat in the ring and hazard a guess as to the annual rate of house price inflation in the final quarter of 2010, I’d be inclined to say that it would be around the zero mark. If my crystal ball is found to be right, it would mean that house prices will end 2010 no higher than they finished 2009.

Now this is going to surprise you, but there has been considerable agreement amongst economists as to the reasons behind the recent house price falls. In short, it has been shifts in housing demand and supply. The evidence, such as that from estate agents, points to increases in houses prices during the second half of 2009 and the early part of this year as having induced additional housing supply. This means that estate agents saw instructions to sell increase strongly. People felt a little more confident about putting their property on the market and there was also a recovery in the volumes of new homes constructed.

So far, so good, you might think. But, as this year has moved on growing uncertainty about the economic environment and the on-going difficulties facing many potential buyers, especially first-time buyers, in obtaining mortgage credit, has contributed to a weakening of demand. The impact on the number of potential first-time buyers has been particularly acute because, by being increasingly credit-constrained, they have in effect become increasingly deposit-constrained too. The point is that buyers, especially first-time buyers, are being asked to find relatively large deposits to compensate for limited mortgage credit and both their limited ability and willingness to find these deposits is impacting on housing demand. So with a weakening demand we have been left with what Rightmove describes as a ‘supply hangover’. The effect has been for prices to fall.

It is a feature of housing markets that demand–supply imbalances induce considerable volatility in house prices. Going forward, it will continue to be the relative magnitudes of instructions to buy (housing demand) and of instructions to sell (housing supply) that will determine the path of house prices. Just how imbalanced will those estate agents books remain? How long will the supply hangover persist? Could supply increase further as people rush to sell and thereby further destabilising the market? Or will sellers begin taking property off the market, deciding that now is not the time to sell? Questions like these help to show just how real and how exciting the concepts of demand and supply are. Demand and supply are not concepts confined to the pages of textbooks they are alive and at work. The UK housing market demonstrates just how alive they are!

Articles

House prices record worst monthly fall ever Independent, Alistair Dawber (8/10/10)
Regions slip behind in bleak housing market Financial Times, Norma Cohen (8/10/10)
What next for house prices? Telegraph, Kara Gammell (8/10/10)
Fears grow for new market crash as house prices plummet Daily Record, Holly Williams (8/10/10)
Property price plunge blamed on need to sell The Herald, Helen McArdle (8/10/10)
Housing market crash feared after average house prices take record plunge Guardian, Jill Treanor (7/10/10)
UK house prices fell 3.6% in September, Halifax says BBC News (7/10/10)

Data

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. 2010 has been a year of contrasting fortunes for house prices. See if by using a demand and supply diagram you can illustrate the impact of demand and supply shifts on house prices in the first half of the year and then do the same again for more recent months.
  2. What do Rightmove mean by a ‘supply hangover’? What factors do you think will determine whether this effect persists?
  3. You become an estate agent. You buy 2 big books. One is to be used to record instructions to buy and the other instructions to sell. You have a meeting with your staff where you discuss those factors that you think will determine how full these two books will be from period to period. What factors do you think you are likely to identify? What impact would one book being fuller than the other have on house prices?
  4. Explain what we mean by a potential house buyer being credit-constrained. What is meant by a potential buyer being deposit-constrained? Why might first-time buyers be more deposit-constrained than other types of buyers?
  5. You often hear people talk about the housing market. But, what do we mean by a market? And what do we mean by a housing market? Do prices in all housing markets behave in the same way?
  6. We’ve seen that there are several institutions that publish an average house price figure. How do you think the likes of Halifax and Nationwide do this? What of Rightmove? Are there any other ways of estimating the average house price? Can you think of any problems that might arise with these estimates?
  7. It’s now your time for you to dust-off your crystal ball. Imagine that you are employed to write a monthly commentary on UK house prices. What would you expect to be reporting in the coming months?

You may have heard that house prices are stalling. August’s house price numbers from the Nationwide Building Society revealed that the average UK house price fell by 0.9% which came on the back of a 0.5% fall in July. The Nationwide talks of an ‘unwinding of the demand-supply imbalance that drove up prices for much of the last year’. It seems that the house price rises last year have, over recent months, induced additional supply by encouraging home-owners to put their property on the market. Unfortunately, there are indications that housing demand has weakened during 2010 though, of course, this gives buyers a greater degree of bargaining power.

But, you might wonder how we can get a handle on the strength of housing demand. Well, one particularly useful piece of information in assessing housing demand is the number of mortgage approvals for purchasing property. After all, there are not many of us that can reach into our back-pocket to find the £166,507 that the Nationwide estimates is needed to buy the average UK property.

If we look at Table A5.4 from August’s edition of Monetary and Financial Statistics, which is published by the Bank of England, we find that the number of mortgage approvals for house purchase in July was 48,722. Now, this was marginally up on the 48,562 in June, but, of more significance is the fact that July’s number was over 8% lower than in July 2009 when approval numbers stood at 53,126. Indeed, this number was to rise further through 2009, hitting 59,117 in November. This indicates a strengthening of housing demand at the time and helps us to appreciate why house prices rebounded last year.

But, the start of 2010 was to see mortgage approval numbers fall away and they have essentially flatlined over recent months at between 48,000 and 50,000. This time the numbers indicate a weakening of housing demand and so help to explain why house price growth has seemingly ceased and gone into reverse.

It remains to be seen how the balance between housing demand and supply will ‘play out’ over the remainder of the year. Will, for instance, some properties be taken off the market in response to this weaker demand? Could housing demand weaken further in response to economic conditions or to economic uncertainty? The answers to these questions will help to determine that all important balance between housing demand and supply. But, by monitoring the mortgage approval numbers we have a ready-made barometer on the strength of housing demand. Feel free to see which way the barometer needle swings in future!

Articles

UK mortgage approval rise but total lending weakest since March Telegraph (31/8/10)
House prices set to slump even further as home loans stay scarce Independent, Sean O’Grady (1/10/10)
Housing market ‘faces double dip’ Press Association (31/8/10)
UK mortgage approvals beat estimates as banks make more funds available Bloomberg, Scott Hamilton (31/8/10)

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 are important in affecting the level of housing demand?
  2. What variables do you think are important in affecting the level of housing supply?
  3. Using a demand-supply diagram illustrate how shifts in housing demand and/or supply may have affected house prices (i) during 2009 and (ii) during 2010.
  4. What would you expect to happen to the strength of housing demand in the coming months? How will this impact on house prices?