Average house prices fell by 0.8% in April compared to March, according to latest analysis of the property market by mortgage lender Halifax. It takes average house prices in April to £212,321.
The survey also found that house prices in the three months to April were 1.5% higher than in the previous quarter, but this rate is almost half the 2.9% rise seen in March.
The annual rate of growth also eased in April from 10.1% to 9.2%, and both quarterly and annual rates are the lowest since last autumn.
The monthly drop follows a busy March when buy-to-let investors and those purchasing second homes were keen to buy before the 3% stamp study surcharge on additional homes came into effect on 1 April.
Martin Ellis, Halifax housing economist, says: “Current market conditions remain very tight as the severe imbalance between supply and demand persists. This situation, combined with low interest rates and rising employment and real earnings, should continue to push house prices up over the coming months.
However, he believes that a dip in consumer confidence in the property market, along with weakening sentiment in its future prospects, could mean that annual house price growth “may ease”.
Commenting on Halifax’s survey, Jonathan Hopper, managing director of buying agent Garrington Property Finders, says: “April was the morning after the stamp duty stampede, and the property market clearly awoke with a sore head. The frothy exuberance of March now seems a distant memory, as the market returns to normality with a bump.
“Starved of the stamp duty stimulus, double-digit annual price rises are unlikely to return any time soon. However, the sudden cooling of the market may mark an opportunity for buyers, as some sellers are being forced to reassess their overly ambitious asking prices.
“For the first time in more than a year, we’re seeing many mid-range properties in the most desirable locations selling for below asking price – hinting that the power dynamic is shifting from a seller’s to a buyer’s market.
“But with demand still strong and supply still chronically low, the net effect is likely to be a gradual return to more normal rates of price growth rather than a serious slowdown.
“With the Halifax also finding that levels of confidence in the housing market have fallen to their lowest level in more than a year, sellers must think urgently about pricing competitively.”
Uncertainty over Brexit
Jeremy Leaf, a former RICS chairman and north London estate agent, says: “This easing of growth in prices is a trend that is likely to continue for the next few months, at least until after the EU Referendum. As investors pause for breath, their withdrawal from the market is giving first-time buyers a better opportunity to take that first step on the ladder than they have had for some time.
“We don’t expect prices to fall unduly while the shortage of stock remains, but we are more concerned with transaction levels so that buyers and sellers can come in and out of the market more freely. This is better for the longer-term sustainability of the market.'
Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, adds: “House prices continue to climb year on year, albeit at a slower pace now that the flurry of activity from investors and second homebuyers to meet the stamp duty hike is out of the way.
“While the Halifax reports that confidence is dipping among consumers, most likely because of the uncertainty on the horizon concerning the EU referendum, lenders are keen to keep business coming through the doors by offering competitive rates and easing criteria.
“Barclays decision to offer 100% lending to those whose parents lodge 10% of the purchase price in savings with the bank is a case in point and a boost for first-time buyers. Elsewhere, older borrowers are also seeing some relief, with Halifax the latest lender to raise its maximum mortgage from 75 to 80.
“With lenders having plenty of money to lend, they can either cut rates – which are already pretty low – or ease criteria so we expect to see plenty of the latter in coming weeks. For those looking to get a mortgage or remortgage, it is a good time to do it.”