Fall in house buying confidence

Housebuyers face growing concerns over spiralling property prices and the prospect of interest rates rising

Housebuyers face growing concerns over spiralling property prices and the prospect of interest rates rising

First published in National News © by

Confidence that the coming months will be a good time to buy a home has slipped back to its lowest levels in at least three years amid growing concerns over spiralling property prices and the prospect of interest rates rising, according to a consumer survey.

London and the South East were identified as the places where people were most likely to feel negative about buying a property in the next 12 months, while those living in Scotland and the North East were the most positive, according to Halifax's quarterly Housing Market Confidence tracker.

Across Britain, the net balance of people who believe the coming year is a good time to buy a house rather than a bad time has plunged from 34% in the first three months of 2014 to just 5% in the second quarter of this year, marking the lowest total since the series began in April 2011.

The balance is worked out by subtracting the percentage of people who think it will be a bad time to buy from those who think it will be a good time.

But while feelings about buying a home have become more negative, confidence that the coming months are a good time to sell a property has never been higher in the survey, Halifax found.

An overall balance of 25% of people believe that the next 12 months are a good time to sell a property rather than a bad time, marking the highest score recorded in the series.

The report found a "sharp rise" in the number of people who said rising prices are a barrier to buying, with 35% of people saying this compared with 20% a year ago. Concerns about the possibility of interest rates rising are also increasing, with 18% of people citing this as a factor, up from 13% last year.

Speculation has been mounting about exactly when the Bank of England base rate, which has been held at a historic 0.5% low for more than five years, will start to rise as the economy improves.

Raising a deposit remains the biggest perceived barrier to buying a home, with this hurdle mentioned by 55% of those surveyed.

In London, where prices have seen some particularly strong increases over the last year, a balance of minus 19% of people believe the coming months are a good time to buy a house, rather than a bad time, while in the South East this balance stands at minus 24%.

People who think the coming months will be a good time to buy tended to be concentrated in places where house prices have risen at a more modest pace over the last year. In Scotland, a balance of 31% of people think the next 12 months will be a good rather than a bad time to buy a property, in the North East it is 29%, in the South West it is 28% and in Wales the figure is 25%.

The South East was the place where people were the most likely to say the coming 12 months would be a good time rather than a bad time to sell, with an overall balance of 55% of people saying this, followed by the South West at 45% and London and the East, both with balances of 44%.

People living in the North East were the most likely to believe it would be a bad time to sell, with an overall balance of minus 17% saying it was a good rather than a bad time to sell, followed by people living in Scotland, at minus 3%, and those living in the North West, which had an overall balance of 1%.

The findings follow a report from property analyst Hometrack last week which found that housing market sentiment appears to be changing, with the volume of new potential buyers registering with estate agents starting to decrease and the London market in particular showing signs of a rapid cooldown.

Craig McKinlay, mortgages director at Halifax, said: "Over the past two years consumer confidence has continued to grow, however it appears that we've reached a tipping point, with the equilibrium between buyers and sellers much more out of sync.

"The results highlight the regional variations as now people believe that it's a good time to sell but not buy, particularly in London and the South East where house price expectations are generally higher and buyers appear to be less inclined to rush into buying a property as we have seen over the past 12 months."

Nearly 2,000 people took part in the research this month.

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