Tag: housing market

The owner-occupied housing market has seen widespread coverage. With house prices falling throughout the recession and problems accessing mortgages for many people, it is this sector of housing that has received most attention. However, it is rental homes that we’ll be considering here and a new strategy being adopted by landlords. As access to mortgages dried up, people instead turned to renting. Demand for rental properties began to increase, such that competition between potential tenants increased significantly. Not only has there been a substantial increase in rents – up by some 35%, but it has also led to a new ‘sealed bid’ strategy.

A strategy that is often used for purchasing houses is where potential buyers submit sealed bids and it is this approach which is now spreading to the rental sector, as demand and competition for properties increases. Potential tenants are required to submit a sealed bid, containing the amount that they are willing to pay to rent out the property and all this must be done within a deadline. Whoever submits the highest bid ‘wins’ the property and hence tenants are encouraged to submit a bid at or close to the maximum they are willing to pay. Landlords insist that they are not trying to force tenants to pay more, but that it is simply the most effective way of letting properties that are short in supply, but face significant demand. As the BBC News article states:

‘It seems that with the current state of the housing market, sealed bids will be here to stay – as long as many would-be renters are chasing a dwindling supply of good rental homes.’

Rental ‘gazumping on the up as demand rises Metro, Tariq Tahir (8/11/10)
’Bidding war’ for homes to rent BBC News, Nigel Cassidy (20/11/10)
Rental market’s now so hot tenants are having to make sealed bids Mail Online, Sebastien O Kelly (8/11/10)
Is the buy-to-let market on its way back? Seek4Media (20/11/10)
Gazumping on the rise as London rental soars Gulf Times, London Evening Standard (8/11/10)

Questions

  1. Using a supply and demand diagram, explain the trend we have seen in the rental market, thinking about the impact on demand, supply and hence on price. How does this explain why sealed bids have been used to combat the increased competition?
  2. Which factors have affected (a) the demand for rental properties and (b) the supply of rental properties? How is the elasticity of demand and supply relevant here in terms of the impact on price?
  3. To what extent is a sealed bid format fair on potential tenants? Who does such a strategy favour?
  4. How could this sealed bid strategy be an example of price discrimination?
  5. What is likely to happen to your consumer surplus if you have to submit a sealed bid?

It doesn’t seem that long ago when Greece was in the news regarding its deficit and need for bailing out. Back then, countries such as Spain, Portugal and Ireland were being mentioned as the next countries which might require financial assistance from the EU. It is now the Irish economy that is in trouble, even though the Irish government has not yet requested any financial help. The EU, however, is ‘ready to act’.

The Irish economy experienced an extremely strong boom, but they also suffered from the biggest recession in the developed world, with national income falling by over 20% since 2007. Savers are withdrawing their money; property prices continue to collapse; and banks needed bailing out. Austerity measures have already been implemented – tax rises and spending cuts equal to 5% of GDP took place, but it has still not been enough to stabilise the economy’s finances. All of these problems have contributed to a large and unsustainable budget deficit and a significant lack of funding and that’s where the EU and possibly the IMF come in.

If the Irish economy continues to decline and experiences a financial crisis, the UK would probably be one of the first to step in and offer finance. As our closest neighbour and an important trading partner, the collapse of the Irish economy would adversely affect the UK. A significant proportion of our exports go to the Irish economy and, with Irish taxpayers facing troubled times, UK exporting companies may be the ones to suffer.

One thing that this crisis has done is to provide eurosceptics with an opportunity to argue their case and blame the euro for the collapse of Ireland. With one monetary policy, the Irish economy is tied in to the interest rates set by the ECB and low interest rates fuelled the then booming economy. The common currency also increased capital flows from central European countries, such as Germany, to peripheral countries, such as Ireland, Spain and Portugal. In themselves, capital flows aren’t a problem, but when they are used to fund property bubbles and not productive investments, adverse effects are inevitable, as Ireland found to its detriment.

As prices collapsed and banks simply ran out of money, the government stepped in and rescued not only the depositors of Irish banks, but also their bondholders. Unable to devalue their currency, as it’s the euro, the Irish economy was unable to boost exports and hence aggregate demand and in turn economic growth. Although, the Irish government has not requested any financial help, as the French Finance Minister commented about a potential bailout: “Is it six months or a few days away? I’d say it’s closer to days.” The following articles look at this developing situation in Europe.

EU plays down Irish republic bail-out talks BBC News (17/11/10)
Ireland bailout: the European politicians who will decide Telegraph, Phillip Aldrick (17/11/10)
Don’t blame the Euro for Ireland’s mess Financial Times, Phillipe Legrain (17/11/10)
Britain signals intention to help Ireland in debt crisis New York Times, James Kanter and Steven Erlanger (17/11/10)
Ireland will take aid if ‘bank issue is too big’ Irish Times, Jason Michael (17/11/10)
Irish junior party says partnership strained Reuters (17/11/10)
Ireland resists humiliating bail-out as UK pledges £7 billion Telegraph, Bruno Waterfield (17/11/10)
Markets stable as Ireland bailout looms Associated Press (17/11/10)
The implausible in pursuit of the indefensible? BBC News blogs, Stephanomics, Stephanie Flanders (16/11/10)
Ireland bailout worth ‘tens of billions’ of euros, says central bank governor Guardian, Julia Kollewe and Lisa O’Carroll (18/11/10)
The stages of Ireland’s grief BBC News blogs, Stephanomics, Stephanie Flanders (18/11/10)
Q&A: Irish Republic finances BBC News (19/11/10)
Could Spain and Portugal be next to accept bail-outs? BBC News, Gavin Hewitt (19/11/10)

Questions

  1. Why will the UK be affected by the collapse of the Irish economy?
  2. If Ireland were not a member of the eurozone, would the country be any better off? How might a floating exchange rate boost growth?
  3. The Financial Times article talks about the euro not being to blame for the Irish problems, saying that ‘tight fiscal policy’ should have been used. What does this mean?
  4. Why is the housing market so important to any nation?
  5. What are the arguments (a) for and (b) against the euro? Would Ireland benefit from leaving the euro?
  6. Should the UK government intervene to help Ireland? What are the key factors that will influence this decision? What about the EU – should Ireland ask for help? Should the EU give help?
  7. Austerity measures have already been implemented, but what other actions could the Irish economy take to increase competitiveness?

House prices are on the rise again and at the fastest rate since June 2007, according to the Nationwide. In June 2007, the average house price was £184,070, which did prevent many first-time buyers from getting on to the property ladder. Enter the recession. Over the past two and a half years, house prices have fluctuated considerably. Land Registry data shows that the average house price in April 2009 had fallen to £152,657, which gave first time buyers more of a chance, but at the same time mortgage lending fell and many lenders required a 25% deposit, which again ruled out many purchasers. Gradual increases in the latter part of 2009 and the beginning of 2010 have seen the average price rise to £164,455 (£167,802 according to Nationwide) and the trend looks unlikely to reverse, although it should stabilise.

Behind these changing prices is a story of demand and supply and the importance of expectations. As the credit crunch began and house prices began to fall, those looking to sell wanted to do so before prices fell further, while those looking to buy were expecting prices to fall further and so had an incentive to delay their purchase. In recent months, however, the demand for houses has out-stripped supply and it is this that has contributed to rising prices. At the same time, the stamp duty holiday that ended in December 2009 was re-introduced in the 2010 Budget and mortgage approvals have begun to increase. All of this has led to annual house price inflation of 10.5% by April 2010.

Articles

House price inflation hits 10.5%, says the Nationwide BBC News (29/4/10)
House price rise reaches double digits, finds Nationwide Telegraph, Myra Butterworth (29/4/10)
House price growth hits three-year high Times Online (29/4/10)
Taylor Wimpey says house prices rise 9pc Telegraph (29/4/10)
Bringing down the house price Guardian (27/4/10)

Data

House Price Data Nationwide
April 2010 Press release Nationwide
Halifax House Price Index site Lloyds Banking Group
(see especially the link to historical house price data)
House Price Index site Land Registry

Questions

  1. Using a diagram, explain why house prices fell towards the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009.
  2. Using your diagram above, now illustrate why house prices have begun to increase.
  3. Is the demand and supply of houses likely to be price elastic or inelastic? How does this affect your diagrams from questions 1 and 2?
  4. Why is the upward trend expected to stabilise during the latter part of 2010?
  5. To what extent has the stamp duty holiday affected house prices?
  6. Has the recession had an impact on equality in the UK economy?
  7. Will rising house prices contribute to economic recovery. Explain why or why not.

The winter months traditionally see lower house sales and prices tend to remain steady or fall. However, house prices had continued to increase over Christmas, as the stamp duty holiday came to an end. In a bid to boost the housing market, the stamp duty threshold had been pushed up from £125,000 to £175,000 for just over a year. This seemed to work, as the housing market did rally throughout 2009 and in particular, in the final months of 2009. Mortgage approvals increased, as first-time buyers in particular tried to complete before stamp duty fell back to £125,000.

However, the end of this ‘holiday’, combined with the icy conditions experienced throughout the UK were contributing factors in the first decline in house prices in about 9 months. According to Halifax, house prices in February fell by 1.5%. House prices are still higher that they were 9 months ago, but the upward momentum they did have, has now taken a dive. Mortgage lending was also down in January by about 32%.

Another factor that has contributed to this downturn is the increased number of properties on the market. Throughout 2009, the number of properties for sale was relatively low and as such, ‘Sale agreed’ notices were appearing on properties within days of them being for sale. This imbalance between demand and supply is now beginning to even out. Is this downward trend merely a blip or does it spell further trouble for the UK economy?

Articles

Snow and end of stamp duty holiday leads to first property price decrease in the UK for nine months PropertyWire (1/3/10)
UK house prices see first fall since June, says Halifax BBC News (4/3/10)
Mortage lending slump prediction comes true as stamp duty returns Daily Mail Online (23/2/10)
House price ‘lose momentum’, says Nationwide BBC News (26/2/10)
Snow and tax send house prices down 1.5% (including video) Times Online, Francesca Steele (4/3/10)
UK house prices fall, snapping rally Telegraph (4/3/10)
House prices fall in February Guardian, Hilary Osborne (4/3/10)

Data

For the Halifax data, see
Halifax house Price Index, February 2010

See also Lloyds Banking Group Housing Research home page and in particular the Historical House price Data link

Questions

  1. What is stamp duty and how did an increase in the threshold aim to stimulate the housing market? Can this be illustrated diagramatically?
  2. Illustrate how house prices are determined using a demand and supply diagram.
  3. One factor that had caused house prices to rise was a lack of supply. Show this on your diagram. Are there any factors that make price fluctuations even more severe, following changes in the demand and supply of houses?
  4. Illustrate how the imbalance of demand and supply has begun to even out.
  5. Why is the state of the housing market such an important factor in determining the strength of the economy?
  6. How do interest rates affect the housing market? Think about the impact on mortgages. Why have mortgage approvals fallen?
  7. To what extent has the weather contributed to falling house prices?

Well no-one can say that Gordon Brown has had an easy ride: the war in Iraq, MPs’ expenses, flooding, strikes, unemployment, and of course a recession. Will the banking crisis and its knock-on effects prove to be the straw that broke the camel’s back? Only time will tell.

The UK economy will be voting within the next few months and the elected party will play a crucial role in our economic recovery. Public debt reached £829.7 billion at the end of October (59.2% of GDP) and with falling tax revenue and rising government spending, it could get considerably higher. “State borrowing grew by £16.1 billion last month (August) – almost twice the entire budget for the 2012 Olympics.”

The outcome of the election will not only play a role in determining how the UK fares over the next few years in terms of our economic recovery, but it will also indicate the likely direction that policy will take towards areas such as education, healthcare, poverty, pensions, etc. The housing market is also likely to be significantly affected and not just by the election. With the end of the stamp duty holiday approaching, demand for housing may begin to fall in the new year, which could spell a fall in house prices.

No matter what happens, it will be interesting to see the direction of government policy over the next few years, given the spending cuts we are likely to experience.

Public debt hits £800 billion – the highest on record Times Online, Patrick Hosking (19/9/09)
Labour polls fuel talk of early election date Mirror News, James Lyons (14/12/09)
Pre-election politics dictate the Bank of England’s economic policy The Independent, Stephen King (14/12/09)
David Cameron and Labour ready for ‘snap election’ BBC News (13/12/09)
So who said what to whom? The truth about the cuts debate Independent, Steve Richards (15/12/09)
Is UK government debt really that high? BBC News, Richard Anderson (22/12/09)

For data on public-sector finances, see:
Public Sector National Statistics Office for National Statistics

For a lighthearted look at the relationship between elections and the economy (in the context of the Philippines), see:
Election and other economic boosters Manilla Bulletin Publishing Corporation, Fred Lobo (14/12/09)

Questions

  1. How are economics and politics related? Think about how the up-coming election is likely to affect government policy and why.
  2. What are the main economic policies proposed by the Labour government? How do these aim to help the UK economy recover?
  3. What are the main economic policies proposed by the Conservative government? Will these policies be any more effective than Labour’s?
  4. The Conservative party is ahead in the polls at the moment: why do you think this is? To what extent has Labour’s popularity been affected by the way the government has dealt with the banking crisis?