London house prices remain flat as home buyers flock to the regions

·4 min read
 (Daniel Lynch)
(Daniel Lynch)

Homes in London are taking two weeks longer to sell than the UK average as the housing market shows early signs of slowing down.

In May it took more than eight weeks to secure a buyer in the capital, compared to the national average of just under six weeks, according to Rightmove.

Across the country, the number of sales agreed was up 45 per cent in April compared to 2019 but declined to just 17 per cent up in May.

Record-high prices and an all-time low number of properties for sale are behind this slowdown in the property market, the property website said.

Rightmove’s Tim Bannister said the website had seen “huge jumps” in the number of sales since the market re-opened in May 2020.

Low interest rates and the stamp duty holiday have meant many buyers could afford to pay more for a home. However, the June 30 completion deadline to qualify for the stamp duty holiday has taken away some of the urgency to move for those who haven’t yet found a new property.

Bannister added: “Buyer demand remains very strong, though with an all-time low in the number of properties available for sale on estate agents’ books and new stock at higher than ever average prices, there are early signs of a slowing in the frenetic pace.

“Higher prices combined with a lack of fresh choice coming to market are reducing some buyers’ ability or desire to move, and while we expect the market to remain robust, there are early signs of a slackening in the incredible pace of activity that we’ve seen over the last year.

“This super-charged activity cannot go on forever, but we expect the market to remain vigorous for at least the remainder of the year.”

London buyers push up house prices outside the capital

House prices in the capital barely rose year-on-year, up just 1.8 per cent to just over £650,000.

However, cash-rich relocators from places like London have pushed up house prices in areas including Wales, which are up 14.6 per cent, and the south-west of England, which are up 11.4 per cent on March 2020.

People who have reevaluated their lives during the pandemic and benefited from flexible work-from-home patterns have been able to buy bigger properties with gardens or surrounded by more countryside.

While UK property prices in general are 7.5 per cent up on March 2020, the biggest, most expensive homes are 12.3 per cent up on the same period, according to Rightmove.

London’s prime commuter belt towns such as Sevenoaks, Reigate, Dorking and Cranbrook have also seen prices go up, according to estate agent Jackson-Stops.

Nick Leeming, chairman, said: “Lifestyle re-evaluations have taken firm root which will lead to sustained demand, especially for rural and suburban locations. We’re still seeing people head to countryside hotspots in their droves, pushing up prices in these areas to new highs.

“Towns and villages, which were once out of reach to five-day-a-week commuters, now present realistic options for hybrid or remote workers.”

Rising house prices a problem for local affordability

Bannister added many people wanting to change their lifestyles were choosing to relocate by buying a second home or leaving the city altogether. However, cash-rich buyers were causing problems for local affordability.

He said: “The south west has been long-established as a second home hot-spot, but has seen renewed impetus from main residence relocators being unshackled from the traditional locations for their daily commute.

“This unprecedented demand has resulted in the lowest ever number of available properties per estate agency branch for any region in the country, down to just ten compared to the national average of 17. Some agents say that they’re pretty much sold out.

“It also has the fastest rate of sale in England for the first time ever, as demand from outsiders and local movers combine to make it the hottest selling region, with 28 per cent of properties selling within a week of marketing on Rightmove.

“Those relocating to these more remote and lifestyle-rich locations from more expensive parts of the country have potentially bigger budgets than local purchasers, causing deteriorating local affordability.”

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