Average UK house price surges to record high but Halifax warns of slowdown ahead

Market has been boosted by  low mortgage interest rates and stamp duty holiday for properties valued up to £500,000

Ben Chapman
Friday 08 January 2021 18:19

What can house prices tell us about the economy?

The average UK house price surged to a record high of £253,374 in December, despite economic pain caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Prices rose 6 per cent in the year after a 0.2 per cent increase last month, Halifax said.

However, the lender cautioned that the UK’s booming property market was likely to cool in 2021.

Prices have been boosted by a temporary increase in the stamp duty threshold to £500,000 which ends in March.

“Average house prices rose again in December, stretching the current run of continuous gains to six months,” said Russell Galley, managing director at Halifax.

“However, the monthly rise of 0.2 per cent was the lowest seen during this period and significantly down on the 1.0 per cent increase in November.

“The average house price was therefore little changed, but nonetheless still reached a fresh record of £253,374.”

Mr Galley said 2020 “was a tale of two distinct halves for the housing market”, with prices down by the middle of the year after a strong start amid Covid-19 restrictions.

“However, when the market reopened, prices soared as a result of pent-up demand, a desire amongst buyers for greater space and the time-limited incentive of the stamp duty holiday.”

He added: “With the pace of the UK’s economic recovery expected to be constrained by the renewed national lockdown, and unemployment widely predicted to rise in the coming months, downward pressure remains likely as we move through 2021.”

The housing market had defied expectations in recent months with mortgage approvals jumping to a 13-year high, according to the latest Bank of England data.

Estate agents have reported a trend of buyers looking for additional space and gardens as a result of the pandemic which has seen people confined to their homes.

Higher prices have also been fuelled by low mortgage interest rates, especially for buyers with a large deposit.

Some lenders have now started to reintroduce deals for 90 per cent loan-to-value mortgages.

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