Young people are increasingly finding it impossible to buy their own home. The reasons are easy to find: income rises of young people have failed to match rises in house prices, and access to loans has become more restrictive since the financial crisis. In 2002, 58.6% of 25-34 year-olds owned their own home; today, the figure is just 36.7%.
Conventional wisdom is that the source of the problem is on the supply side: a lack of house building. But according to the Redfern Review, led by the chief executive of Taylor Wimpey, Pete Redfern, the source of the problem lies mainly on the demand side. Overall demand for housing has been rapidly rising, stoked by low interest rates and the Help to Buy scheme, which is available to existing home owners as well as first-time buyers. However, purchases by first-time buyers have fallen as their incomes have declined relative to those of older people.
Of course, increasing supply, especially of cheaper starter homes, would help young people, but, according to the Redfern Review, such schemes take a long time to make much of a difference (although building modular homes could be much quicker). In the meantime, help could be provided on the demand side by making the Help to Buy scheme available only to first-time buyers and by increasing the help to them provided under the scheme, and also by encouraging lenders to make access to mortgages easier.
But a problem for most young people is high levels of debt, including student loans. Such debt and a lack of savings makes it difficult to raise a deposit, let alone afford mortgage repayments. And on the rental side, accommodation is becoming less and less affordable as rents rise faster than incomes, further exacerbating the difficulty of clawing down debt and saving for a deposit.
A long-term solution must involve increased supply – as the Redfern Review recognises. But in the short-term, providing more help to first-time buyers and those paying high rents could make a significant difference.
Tackling UK housing crisis ‘will take generations’ ITV News, Joel Hills (16/11/16)
Review of home ownership in UK shows severe decline in young buyers PropertyWire (16/11/16)
Housing crisis: Lack of new building not to blame for soaring house prices finds Labour-commissioned report Independent, Ben Chu and Ashley Cowburn (16/11/16)
Redfern Review: Focus on First Time Buyers and Launch Housing Commission Money Expert, Danny Lord (16/11/16)
First-time buyers need more help, review finds BBC News (16/11/16)
Redfern Review echoes Homes for Scotland’s call for joined-up approach to housing Scottish Housing News, Nicola Barclay (17/11/16)
Redfern review into housing: worth building on? The Guardian, Nils Pratley (15/11/16)
UK housing review downplays developers’ role in crisis, critics say The Guardian, Graham Ruddick (16/11/16)
The Redfern Review into the decline of homeownership (16/11/16)
Economic Data freely available online: UK house prices The Economics Network
UK House Price to income ratio and affordability Economics Help blog (21/9/15)
House Price Index Nationwide
UK House Price Index: reports ONS/Land Registry
House Price Index: Statistical Bulletin ONS (Sept. 2016)
- Do a data search to find out what has happened since 1990 to (a) average UK house prices; (b) average incomes; (c) the distribution of income since 1990; (d) first-time buyer affordability of houses.
- Use a supply and demand diagram to illustrate current average house prices compared with house prices in 2000.
- How does the price elasticity of supply of houses affect the impact of a rise in demand on house prices? Illustrate your answer with a diagram.
- What determines the price elasticity of supply of houses?
- What particular problems do young people face in being able to afford to buy a house or flat?
- How would making it easier for young people to be able to raise finance to purchase their first home affect the price of starter homes?
- What policies could be adopted by the government to make rents more affordable? Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of such policies.
The housing market has long been seen as a crucial element in stimulating the British economy. For this reason various incentives had been introduced to encourage people to buy properties. (Click here for a PowerPoint of the chart.)
One such strategy was the stamp duty holiday. Stamp Duty Land Tax is paid by the purchaser of a property against a purchase price and the cost of it will rise through each price band. The stamp duty holiday meant that first-time buyers were free from the 1% stamp duty on homes that cost under £250,000. However, this holiday is due to end from March 2012, as according to the government, the holiday has been ineffective. Indeed, in the Autumn statement documents, the government said:
‘The government is publishing analysis showing that the stamp duty land tax relief for first-time buyers has been ineffective in increasing the number of first time buyers entering the market.’
The government has said that instead it will focus on other strategies that provide better value for money. Such schemes include a mortgage guarantee scheme and the FirstBuy scheme launched last year, both of which aim to help those struggling to finance the purchase of their first properties.
According to the Land Registry, property prices have fallen by over 1% over the past year, so fewer properties will face the stamp duty land tax, but this data does little to instill confidence in the housing market being the stimulus that the economy needs. By stimulating the housing market, construction jobs should be created and this in turn should create a much needed multiplier effect helping to boost other sectors within the economy. The following articles consider this latest development.
Stamp duty rush boosts January valuations Mortgage Strategy, Tessa Norman (11/2/12)
New deals for buyers as stamp duty holiday ends BBC News, Susannah Streeter (11/2/12)
Autumn Statement: Stamp duty concession to end BBC News (29/11/11)
First-time buyers boost mortgage market activity FT Adviser, Michael Trudeau (9/2/12)
When shared ownership turns sour Guardian, Rupert Jones (10/2/12)
- Why does the housing market play such a crucial role in the economy?
- What is the multiplier effect? How will new jobs in the construction industry help other sectors in the economy?
- Why has the stamp duty holiday been ‘ineffective’ in stimulating the housing market?
- How have the other schemes introduced by the government created incentives in the housing market?
- Why have January valuations improved? Use a demand and supply diagram to illustrate your explanation.
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.
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)
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
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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 .
- 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?
- What do we mean by a demand-supply imbalance? Would you expect this imbalance to continue?
- 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.
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)
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.)
- What variables do you think will affect the demand for mortgages?
- What variables do you think will affect the supply of mortgages by lenders?
- 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?
- 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.