House prices hit another record high

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HOUSE prices climbed to another all-time high in October after dipping slightly the previous month, Nationwide Building Society has reported.

Property values lifted by 0.5% month on month to reach £189,333 on average, reversing a 0.1% month-on-month fall seen in September.

But the year-on-year pace of house price growth has been slowing for two months in a row, and Nationwide said that the housing market does appear to have lost momentum.

Values lifted by 9.0% year-on-year in October, drifting down from a 9.4% annual uplift in September. Year-on-year house price growth had consistently been in double digits over the summer as house prices hit a string of new all-time highs.

Typical UK house prices surpassed their 2007 peak in cash terms in May this year and between then and August they had hit a run of new records, before falling back slightly in September and then recovering to a fresh peak this month.

Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, said: “A variety of indicators suggest that the market has lost momentum.

“The number of mortgages approved for house purchase in September was almost 20% below the level prevailing at the start of the year.”

He pointed to some recent studies which have suggested that interest from prospective house hunters is dropping off and said that activity may soften further in the near-term, particularly in London.

Mr Gardner said that with mortgage rates having fallen to rock bottom levels, the typical mortgage payment as a share of someone’s take home pay remains close to the long-term average, despite house prices being at an all-time high.

In a sign of what is to come, the Bank of England reported yesterday that the number of mortgage approvals made to home buyers fell to a 14-month low in September.

Some experts have said this is evidence of the market becoming steadier after a strong burst of housing market activity seen earlier this year.

But other commentators have predicted that with the wider economy still picking up, the weaker patch of mortgage approvals will not last for long.

Stricter mortgage lending rules came into force earlier this year which caused some disruption to the market, but in recent weeks there have been signs of lenders gaining a stronger appetite to do business and slashing the mortgage rates on offer in attempts to meet end-of-year lending targets.

Expectations about the prospect of a rise in the Bank of England base rate from its historic 0.5% low, pushing up borrowing costs, also appear to have been pushed back.

The Bank’s chief economist Andy Haldane recently indicated that there will be no hike until well into next year.

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist for IHS Global Insight, said: “The Nationwide data for October are consistent with our view that house prices will keep on rising but at a more restrained rate...

“Even so, buyer interest in houses is unlikely to fall away with appreciable support is likely to come from elevated consumer confidence, markedly rising employment, and still low mortgage interest rates, especially as they now look unlikely to rise before mid-2015.”