UK house prices top £200,000 as supply slumps to 1978 levels

THE average price of a house in the UK has topped £200,000 for the first time amid warnings that a record low number of homes for sale is pushing prices up to unaffordable levels.

Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Halifax reported the average price is now £200,280, with property values now 9.6 per cent higher than a year ago. The bank acknowledged lack of supply was a key factor behind the growth and separate research from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) revealed the supply of homes for sale was at its lowest since its data began in 1978.

The Bank of England has raised concerns about the level of buy-to-let mortgages which now account for 20 per cent of new home loan lending, prompting fears the burgeoning buy-to-let market may pose a threat to financial stability.

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Halifax housing economist Martin Ellis said: “Supply remains very tight with the stock of homes available for sale currently at record low levels.

“This shortage has been a key factor in maintaining house price growth at a robust pace so far in 2015.

“Economic growth, higher employment, increasing real earnings growth and very low mortgage rates are all supporting housing demand with signs of a recent modest pick-up in demand.”

Halifax did not produce an up-to-date regional breakdown of average prices but the bank’s figures for the first quarter of 2015 recorded Yorkshire and the Humber at £136,869 – up 7.7 per cent over the year.

Rics reported the average stock of properties per surveyor fell to a new all-time low of just under 50 in June, edging downwards from a previous record low of around 52 recorded in May.

It added the underlying causes of the supply shortage appeared to vary across different parts of the UK, although the cost of selling a home was a “significant factor” in some of the more expensive property markets.

The Rics report said: “Costs such as stamp duty are making renovation/extension works more financially appealing than changing home.

“There is some consensus that the lack of stock is, to an extent, self-perpetuating as it acts as a deterrent to new vendors entering the market due to the reduced choice on offer for their next purchase.”

Rics chief economist, Simon Rubinsohn, said the expected rates of growth in house and rental prices in the medium term would comfortably exceed the likely growth in wages, adding: “There had been some hope that the removal of political uncertainty following the general election would encourage more properties onto the market but the initial indications are that this is not proving to be the case.

“It is hardly surprising that prices across much of the country are continuing to be squeezed higher with property set to become ever more unaffordable.”

Meanwhile, minutes of the Bank of England’s Financial Policy Committee (FPC) meeting last month showed officials’ concerns about the buy-to-let sector which accounted for 15 per cent of outstanding mortgages and 20 per cent of new home loan lending in the first quarter of this year.

The FPC set out new policies on home loans a year ago to insure against the risk of a steep rise in indebted households and has been given powers to limit residential mortgage lending at high loan-to-value or high debt-to-income ratios. But these applied only to owner-occupier loans and the FPC’s latest minutes said “it was possible for risks to financial stability to be transferred to the buy-to-let segment”.