Little Optimism in the Housing Market – for Buyers or Sellers

24 April 2024

A week after April Fool’s Day, something seemingly impossible happened – housing prices fell for the first time in half a year. While the slump was tiny, almost barely worth reporting at -1%, it surprised some analysts.

Harrogate Millennials

Prices grew by 1.6% in February 2024 and 0.3% in March, as part of a trend that has kept property unaffordable for many. To put that statement into perspective, first-time buyer statistics for 2023 report that three-quarters (77%) of would-be owners believe they will never own a home.

Difficulties finding mortgages and an average UK house price of £288,430 aren’t compelling arguments for getting on the ladder. Most of the trouble falls on the heads of younger generations, especially those aged 25-34.

This is particularly true among Harrogate millennials, according to a local estate agent, who have struggled to find opportunities in the market. A reported £7.6bn in housing belongs to people aged 65 and over in Harrogate, with a further £7bn owned by householders in the 50-64 bracket.

Of course, with this conversation fixated on entrants to the market and those having difficulties finding properties, an important demographic gets left out of the equation – sellers.

House Sales

Selling has always been a gauntlet. The Times newspaper reports that house sales in 2023 were at their lowest level since (at least) 2005. Just 770,000 properties were moved on, compared to 1.3m in 2022 and 1.5m in 2021. The same source concluded that prices are just too high.

Overall, only 60% of houses on the market are sold.

Eager sellers are finding creative ways to move along the property chain, although, the reasons for hasty sales are many. Withdrawn buyers, divorce or separation, and issues with estate agents mean that housing isn’t always the prize it should be.

In these cases, cash house buyers offer a solution that skirts around the traditional selling process, allowing sales to be completed in just a few days. The site claims to reach 98% of active buyers, via companies like Zoopla and Rightmove.

Wealth Disparity

The UK faces a perfect storm of unavailability regarding housing availability and funds tied up in brick and mortar. Unfortunately, according to economist and author Fred Harrison, property prices may increase by another 20% before 2026.

For the first-time buyers mentioned earlier, the concern is that ‘trickle-down’ economics will take its share in the most capitalist way possible, by placing money from property sales back in the hands of other property owners. This is one of the biggest drivers of wealth disparity in the UK.

According to the Office for National Statistics, just 10% of households in the UK hold 43% of the money. Couple that with the low affordability of mortgages and the housing ladder starts to seem like a non-starter for older millennials and Gen Z.

Again, though, let’s not forget it (usually) takes two to move along the property chain. Not being able to sell up and move on is just as destructive to the housing market as being unable to buy.

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