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August Market Report. Local property news for you...

As we make the most of this very unpredictable British summer, let's take a look at what is traditionally a tricky month for the property market.

Whilst the August drop in prices makes dramatic media headlines, there's certainly a more measured reaction by Bristol's sellers and buyers. Bristol now has 4 of Britain's top 10 strongest home-sellers markets of the year so far.    

Here are the headlines, followed by some more detailed market reporting to help with your home move considerations. 

Headlines

  • Average new seller asking prices fall by 1.9%, although average prices are still £59,000 (19%) higher than in the pre-pandemic market of August 2019

These lower asking prices, combined with increasing average earnings and the apparent downward trend of mortgage rates are tentative steps towards improved buyer affordability. The average five-year fixed mortgage rate is now 5.81%, falling from 6.08% this time just three weeks ago and currently showing signs of an improving trend

  • The number of sales being agreed is now 15% lower than the more normal 2019, although the first-time buyer sector is holding up better and down by only 10%, due in part to record rents and the scarcity of rental property

In the typical first-time buyer sector of two-bedroom and fewer properties, average advertised rents are up by 12% compared to last year and by 33% compared with the same time in 2019

  • No glut of homes for sale as the number of available properties is still 10% lower than at this time in 2019, with agents reporting that realistically-priced homes in popular areas are tempting buyers who don’t want to miss out

Rightmove data shows that homes that are priced right from the outset take less than half as long to find a buyer than those which require a subsequent asking price reduction.

Economy

Bank of England base rates were raised to 5.25% in August, the 14th increase in a row, in order to curb inflation. The Bank expects inflation to slow to 5% by the end of the year.
The UK economy grew by 0.5% in June, following a GDP fall of 0.1% in May and growth of 0.2% in April, taking the overall growth to 0.2% for Q2. Inflation fell to 6.8% in July, down 7.9% from June, its lowest level since February 2022. Core inflation remained unchanged, at 6.9% (ONS).

Bristol

Over the last 12 months, the average sales price in Bristol was £375,095. 32% of sales in the past 12 months were flats, achieving an average sales price of £281,227. 
The rising cost of debt and cost of living pressures have done little to subdue demand for homes in Bristol, according to JLL.

Global property advisor JLL has released its new 'Big Six' report this August where it recorded that the average sales and rental values rose 3.6% and 13.4% respectively.
The ‘Big Six’ research, which tracks residential development activity, prices, and rents across Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, highlighted continued demand from young professionals plus both domestic and international students as the key drivers for the increase in value, alongside a reduction in supply and building and planning constraints.

JLL found, in Bristol, rental property stock fell by 14% in the second quarter of 2023 and by 18% since before the pandemic, as landlords continued to leave the market "due to economic constraints". At the same time, over the past 10 years, the city's population grew above the UK average at 10.3%, "placing even greater pressure on the residential market".

The property advisor concluded that the increase in rents demonstrates a demand for city centre plus the need for more homes. Looking at the sales market, property values also grew but at a slower pace at 3.6%. JLL found one-bedroom apartments had the highest growth at 8.7%, with the average price now sitting at £250,000 in Bristol.

Nicholas Rumble, director of residential development in Bristol, commented: “Bristol has long been a victim of its own success. It continues to provide a place where people want to live, work and study but it has been hampered by a lack of available residential properties and tight planning regulation which has slowed new properties coming to market. If we are to keep up with this continued demand and allow the economy to keep growing, then we need to encourage more housebuilding in the places where we need it most.”

National 

The average asking price of newly marketed properties drops by 1.9% this month to £364,895, outpacing the average drop of 0.9% in August’s traditional summer slowdown. The larger than usual price drop this month indicates that some sellers are seizing the initiative and heeding their agents’ advice to price competitively for their current local market conditions, in order to attract a buyer against the backdrop of holidays, cost of living pressures, and the highest Bank of England Base Rate since 2008. Average asking prices are now £8,000 (2%) lower than at their peak in May, but this must be placed in the larger context of significant price growth over the past four years, with average prices still £59,000 (19%) higher than in August 2019. Lower asking prices when combined with higher average earnings and the apparent downward trend in mortgage rates are tentative steps on a journey towards better buyer affordability. 

“Our analysis shows that homes that are priced right the first time, rather than priced too high only to be reduced later, are not only more likely to find a buyer but more likely to find a buyer quickly. This supports local agent reports of a two-speed market, with some properties for sale being overpriced and at risk of going stale, and many competitively priced homes which are attracting multiple prospective buyers. The lower level of agreed sales compared to this time in 2019 indicates the affordability challenges that many buyers currently face. However, with sales holding up more strongly in the typical first-time buyer sector, the prospect of owning your own home remains an appealing option for those who can afford it, with the alternative being an extremely frenzied rental market, where rents are at record levels.” Tim Bannister Rightmove’s Director of Property Science

Halifax says "These figures add to the sense of a housing market which continues to display a degree of resilience in the face of tough economic headwinds"

“In particular, we’re seeing activity amongst first-time buyers hold up relatively well, with indications some are now searching for smaller homes, to offset higher borrowing costs. Conversely, the buy-to-let sector appears to be under some pressure, though elevated interest rates are just one factor impacting landlords’ business models, together with considerations of future rental market reforms. It remains to be seen how many may choose to exit and what that could mean for the supply of properties available to buy. Prospects for the UK housing market remain closely linked to the performance of the wider economy. Several factors are providing support, notably strong wage growth, running at around +7% annually. And, while the uptick in unemployment is likely to restrain that somewhat, it seems unlikely to reach levels that would trigger a sharp deterioration in conditions.

Expectations of further Base Rate increases from the Bank of England were tempered by a better-than-expected inflation report for June. However, while there have been recent signs of borrowing costs stabilising or even falling, they will likely remain much higher than homeowners have become used to over the last decade.

The continued affordability squeeze will mean constrained market activity persists, and we expect house prices to continue to fall into next year. Based on our current economic assumptions, we anticipate that being a gradual rather than a precipitous decline. And one that is unlikely to fully reverse the house price growth recorded over recent years, with average property prices still some £45,000 (+19%) above pre-Covid levels.”

Transactions

The latest HMRC figures report that over 85,000 sales took place in June. This is up 6% on the previous month and the highest number since March, although down 15.4% year-on-year. In the latest RICS survey, a net balance of -44% of respondents noted a decline in agreed sales during July. A Mortgage Charter has been established by the Government in the wake of continued mortgage rate volatility. The Charter has the support of 85% of the industry and aims to support mortgaged homeowners. The support does not extend to the buy-to-let investment market.

Finally, if you are (understandably) confused by some of the mixed market reporting, not least by some of the more sensational news reporting each month, click here for some independent insight into how House Price Indexes are compiled.

Sources: Rightmove, Zoopla, On the Market, Dataloft, Land Registry, National House Price Index, DLUHC

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