Transactions fail to pick up as house purchase approvals hit 15-month low

Residential property transactions averaged just over 100,000 a month last year – but house purchase approvals hit a 15-month low in November.

There were also weaker than expected levels of house purchase approvals by banks in October.

In November, there were 39,507 mortgage approvals for house purchases, down from 40,417 in October, and lower than the 41,500 that had been expected.

The November figure was also 5% lower than in the same month in 2016.

In August, there was a six-month high of 41,791 house purchase mortgage approvals.

UK Finance, the trade body representing high street banks, forecasts that overall activity levels last year will be similar to those between 2014 and 2016, but with a steeper slowdown in the last quarter than had been expected.

It says: “There has been little recovery in property transactions over the last four years.”

The big difference is that last year, there were more first-time buyers and fewer buy-to-let landlords.

UK Finance estimates that last year, there were almost as many first-time buyers as home movers – each occupying 30% of the property purchasing market.

However, the biggest single category, with 35% share, were cash buyers.

Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY ITEM Club consultancy, said: “Housing market activity remains under pressure from squeezed consumer finances and fragile confidence, and it may well have taken a further dent in November from the Bank of England lifting interest rates.”

We have not seen any forecasts predicting a rise in transactions this year, but the average consensus seems to be that house prices will rise an average of 1%-4% – Countrywide for example is predicting an average rise of 2%.

A dissenting voice is that of Henry Pryor, who is forecasting a 2% drop – despite the fact that his prediction of a 4% fall last year does not seem to have happened.

Pryor said: “My prediction might have worked out in London, but nationally I was second only to Eddie the Eagle.”

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