Outlook When is a housing bubble not a housing bubble? When both the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Governor of the Bank of England tell you it isn't, of course.
So, naturally, it would be wise to ignore the latest data from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) and the Government's own Office for National Statistics (ONS).
But just in case this data may hold a modicum of truth, it may be worth noting that Rics said the housing market is at its strongest since November 2006 and the ONS said prices rose by 3.1 per cent in June – ahead of its own preferred inflation measure.
And within the details, both surveys suggest that while London – with its strange fascination for overseas buyers and investors – remains the powerhouse for the market, house prices and, more importantly, sales, are starting to move in most other parts of the country. Indeed Rics highlighted the point that two of the worst performers in recent years, the West Midlands and North-east, are now trending at 14-year highs.
Even now, the equivalent of Corporal Jones from Dad's Army is running down the corridors of Whitehall and along the pavement of Threadneedle Street shouting: "Don't panic. Don't panic."
Well, just ignore him.
The fact is that not only is the housing market taking off at a rate most economists find at least surprising, if not yet worrying, but the Government has already primed it to shoot ahead even more. The first phase of the Help to Buy scheme, which came in April and covered only new-build homes, has clearly stimulated the market. But there is every chance that when it moves into its next phase, covering older properties and including a government guarantee on part of the mortgage, the market could well become over-stimulated.
The Shore Capital economist Gerard Lane fears he may be a little cynical in his views on this subject. He suggests that the politicians (I assume he means the Tories) would not be particularly unhappy if there were something of a housing boom in the run-up to the May 2015 General Election. He even dares to imply that a housing boom, feeding through into the domestic economy during a period of cheap money, would make it easier for the Treasury to sell its stakes in Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group.
Come, Mr Lane, you are not being cynical enough.Reuse content