The recent coronation of King Charles III at Westminster Abbey marked the 40th such event in the Abbey’s history and the first in the UK in the 21st century. The coronation weekend, which included the Big Lunch and the Big Help Out events, underscored the importance of community and neighbourliness in the UK property market, comments Nicky Stevenson, MD of premium estate agency brand Fine & Country.
Stevenson notes that a recent Property Academy Home Moving Trends Survey found that 87% of homebuyers rate pleasant neighbours as an important consideration when choosing a property to buy, and three in four rate a sense of local community as a key factor. These findings suggest that events like the Big Lunch and the Big Help Out can play a significant role in attracting homebuyers to certain areas.
Looking at other aspects impacting the UK property market, Stevenson adds that despite concerns about inflation, the Consumer Prices Index including housing costs fell to below 9% in March, while consumer economic confidence in the month to April exceeded market expectations and hit its highest level in over a year. “With the UK now expected to avoid recession, and the latest economic index signals that the economy is growing. These positive developments have led to increased confidence among consumers about their financial situation and the general economy,” she says.
According to Stevenson, the property market remains strong, with demand for properties up 8% compared to 2019. “Properties with up to two bedrooms are currently the most sought after, with demand for such properties up 11% compared to 2019. Stock levels are now only 9% lower than historical norms, providing more choice for buyers. Nearly all regions in England and Wales now have three or more months of residential stock to sell, the North East the notable exception,” she adds.
“Buyers and sellers continue to transact, with 94,870 sales taking place in March 2023, a 26% increase from February. The number of sales agreed to date in 2023 is just 1% lower than in 2019, compared to a 21% fall at the start of the year. Prospective purchasers are benefitting from enhanced competition between mortgage lenders across the Loan-to-Value spectrum. Moneyfacts report there were over 5,100 deals on the market in April, up 17% on March and just shy of the 5,300 available in August 2022, when interest rates started to rise. Despite the base rate of interest having risen by 2% since October, long-term swap rates are some 1.5% points lower, with fixed-rate mortgage deals now available offering rates below 4%,” Stevenson comments.
Looking at housing prices, Stevenson says that Nationwide reports that average property prices were 2.7% lower in April than a year earlier, but the average price of a property rose by 0.5% month-on-month after seven months of falls. In the prime markets, annual price growth is positive in all regions of England and Wales, with the South East and South West currently the strongest performing markets.