House sales to slump to lowest in over a decade

6 hours ago
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By Vishala Sri-Pathma
Business reporter

The number of houses sold in the UK this year is on track to be the lowest since 2012, according to property website, Zoopla.

Around one million sales are set to be completed this year, with transactions almost a fifth lower than in 2022.

The cost of mortgages and rents have risen sharply since banks started increasing rates on lending.

Houses bought with cash, where buyers are not relying on a mortgage, are expected to hold up relatively well.

Existing homeowners using a mortgage to buy a house typically account for a third of annual sales.

According to Zoopla, those buyers are now more likely to wait until the outlook for rates becomes more favourable, despite property prices falling in some parts of the UK.

The average rate on a two-year fixed mortgage deal is 6.74%, according to the financial information service Moneyfacts. The typical rate for a longer five-year deal is 6.22%.

Mortgage costs are much higher now than the ultra-low rates of less than 2% many homeowners enjoyed in previous years.

The Bank of England has increased its benchmark rate 14 times in a row to reach its current level of 5.25%.

Zoopla said sales of smaller, more affordable properties have not been hit as badly as transactions involving three and four-bedroom homes.

New purchases of buy-to-let homes have also been squeezed by higher mortgage rates.

The cost of rent has risen sharply against a backdrop of more costly mortgages, with many tenants struggling to find affordable housing as landlords increase rents to cover their higher costs.

Richard Donnell, executive director at Zoopla, said: “Prices are falling more in southern England, where higher mortgage rates have priced more people out of the housing market, weakening demand.

“While UK house prices are 0.1% higher over the year, it is the number of sales that have been hit hardest by higher borrowing costs, especially amongst mortgage-reliant buyers,” he said, adding that rates need to fall below 5% before if the market is to see an “increased appetite to move home” by the end of the year.

According to data from the building society Halifax, for all buyers, London has the least affordable homes, priced at 9.3 times average earnings, with mortgage repayments taking up 49% of earnings.

The North East of England, with properties priced at 4.9 times average earnings, and Scotland, with houses priced a five times average earnings, have the most affordable homes. Inverclyde – where homes cost 2.9 times average earnings – is recorded as having the most affordable homes of any local authority area, the Halifax said.

Worried about housing costs?

1. Overpay your mortgage. If you still have some time on a low fixed-rate deal, you might be able to pay more now to save later.

2. Moving to an interest-only mortgage. It can keep your monthly payments affordable although you won’t be paying off the debt accrued when purchasing your house.

3. Extend the life of your mortgage. The typical mortgage term is 25 years, but 30 and even 40-year terms are now available.

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