There’s no denying that the last 12 months have had some people feeling like they’ve been trapped in a 365 day long spin cycle in the washing machine. The UK property market has had its fair share of ups and downs and people’s confidence in the market has been about as reliable as a chocolate teapot but there’s one thing that we can all agree on – the market is undoubtedly resilient.
The year 2023 has been marked by its extremes. The Bank of England’s (BoE) fourteen consecutive interest rate hikes caused mortgage rates to soar, reaching their peak in August. The average rate for a two-year fixed and five-year fixed mortgage stood at 6.86% and 6.36%, respectively. Meanwhile, a decline in buyer demand caused house prices to experience their sharpest drop in fourteen years, with a significant slump occurring in October.
We want to reassure you that our local property markets, including Arundel, Bognor Regis, Chichester and The Six Villages, are all extremely buoyant despite the economic changes. We appreciate our role and value our reputation in the community immensely. It’s our reputation and unbeatable local knowledge that sets us apart, and we hope that when we say the markets are stable and buoyant that it reassures you that you do not need to settle and stay put if you are looking to make a property change. We are here, willing and able to help get you moving and out of your property rut.
Transactions are still taking place and supportive measures have been taken to encourage further activity in the industry. There’s even talk of cautious optimism rippling across the UK’s property market. Click here to find out what our customers think of us.
The current landscape
The Christmas season often results in a slowdown of activity, as many sellers take their homes off the market to prepare for the festivities, while buyers prioritise gift shopping over purchasing properties. As soon as the plates have been cleared from the Christmas dinner, the busiest week in online property searches begins and the new year market of property buyers and sellers exponentially grows. This first week back in the office has shown an undeniable rate of activity – our estate agents are busy ensuring all listings are represented in the best possible light, communication channels are buzzing, and sales progressors are exploding out of the starting blocks.
Contrary to media predictions, the UK’s housing market has held up well in 2023 without crashing. While some house price indices suggest worrying trends, these are skewed towards borrowers who are affected by increased interest rates. The Office of National Statistics House Price Index indicates a more robust picture, showing only a 0.1% dip in house prices in the year to September.
Compared to last year’s tumultuous aftermath of former Prime Minister Liz Truss’s disastrous Mini-Budget, the mortgage forecast for 2024 is much calmer. Fixed-rate mortgages have been decreasing for a few months due to better than anticipated inflation data and the general consensus that interest rates have reached their peak at 5.25%, following the Bank of England’s decision to maintain the base rate for the second time in November 2023.
As of Friday 29th December 2023, the current average mortgage rates are shown below:
Rental market review
2023 was a tough year for the rental market. In a nutshell, thanks to rising rents and limited stock, there were too many tenants competing for available properties. A record number of landlords left the market, citing high maintenance costs. Tenant demand continued to rise in the private rental sector; this imbalance of supply and demand has resulted in bidding wars between tenants and a nationwide increase in rent.
As inflation continued to increase, the Bank of England raised interest rates to limit spending and control inflation. As a result, the lettings market cooled down, and by the end of 2023, rent prices stabilised. Government intervention has been prompted, with the Renters Reform Bill that was introduced in May, along with the recent announcement of the unfreezing of the local housing allowance (LHA) in last month’s Autumn Statement. Widespread disappointment was felt when the property market as a whole was left out of the Autumn Statement, with the exception of the LHA announcement, despite a lot of anticipation about an address of the renters reform bill and subsequent support and acknowledgement to those struggling this year – landlords and tenants alike.
Letting agents are now required to give more upfront information for tenants contemplating travelling distance to view which will add more transparency and a positive step.
Mortgage rates are now dropping however and this will ease the burden on landlords with mortgages and decrease the pressure to raise rents. Another notable development at the end of 2023 was that tenants felt more confident that if they needed to move there was more choice for them so supply eased which in turn provided more competition and levelled rents.
The road ahead
We asked Sims Williams owner Richard Moores(MNAEA) what his thoughts and reflections were on the last 12 months and what he is looking out for in 2024. Here’s what he had to say:
“‘New Year – New Me’ is often spoken at this time of year; the housing market seems to be adopting that stance as we enter what is historically a busy time of year.
We are all aware of the challenges faced by the housing market during 2023, this was predominantly down to the fall out of the ‘Liz Trust 2022 Autumn Budget’ and other global issues such as the war in Ukraine which in turn led to eye watering increases in mortgage lending rates and had many potential buyers and sellers adopting a ‘wait and see approach’ to their moving plans.
As 2023 came to a close, we started to receive the welcome news of interest rates reducing which in turn led to an increase in buyer confidence with sales levels much healthier in the final quarter of the year.
So, what’s in store for 2024?
Depending on which newspaper you read and on which day, the message from economists is somewhat conflicting. With some suggesting that the Bank of England will leave the base rate as it stands for the year, others have suggested we could potentially see one, if not two reductions during the year – like most of us, I’d favour the latter!
We are also entering a General Election year, what goodies do the government have in store for the housing market in their March budget? There is talk of offering help for First Time Buyers whether that is the return of Help to Buy or similar schemes as well as the talk of a Stamp Duty Holiday to help ease the costs involved in moving.
All the above are encouraging signs and as I sit in the office typing this viewpoint, the phones are ringing, viewings are being booked and valuations are being carried out.
Let’s hope that 2024 can keep its New Year’s Resolution of being a better year than 2023”.
We are aware that many individuals are facing economic hardship due to the increasing rates and pricing fluctuations. Nevertheless, our branches have been bustling with activity and have recorded steady sales and lettings in 2023. As a result, we are confident that we can acquire the best possible price for your property if you intend to sell or let it in 2024.
Kim Kinnaird, Director of Halifax Mortgages says:
“Property prices in the UK have surprisingly held up well over the past year, only decreasing by 1% annually to reach £283,615. However, this stability is more due to a scarcity of homes for sale than an increase in buyer demand. Despite the challenging market conditions, average house prices are only 3% lower than they were at their peak of £293,025 in August 2022, but still £44,000 higher than pre-pandemic levels. It’s worth noting that the housing market has seen some fluctuations throughout 2023, which are somewhat masked by these figures.”
To sell your property quickly, it’s essential to price it according to the local market value. Setting a price above the market value may result in longer wait times and the property becoming “stale” in the market. In fact, mispricing can cost you up to 11 additional weeks on the market. If you’re not satisfied with the market value, it’s important to weigh the financial and practical consequences of waiting to sell your property.
Sims Williams are estate and letting agents with offices in Arundel, Bognor Regis, Chichester and The Six Villages. For expert advice on all things property or for a free no obligation market appraisal, do contact your local Sims Williams office. We are here to guide you through every step of your journey, providing professional advice, support and guidance you can trust.