Thursday, 8 July 2010

House prices wilting - a little more reality creeping in?

In recent months new channels (including the BBC only yesterday) and papers have been reporting the 'return to growth' of house prices ... based on a mixture of 'hope' and 'flawed economics'.  Today, following the Halifax figures showing them falling the BBC has had to report the situation slightly differently ...

UK house prices wilting in summer

House prices are falling in part because of more properties for sale. UK house prices have fallen slightly in the early summer compared with the start of the year, a survey has found.

Property values dropped by 0.6% in June compared with May, following a 0.5% fall the previous month, the Halifax said. This meant prices in the second three months of the year were 0.1% lower than the first quarter.

More properties coming onto the market and less activity from house buyers has caused the fall, the lender said. The average home in the UK is now valued at £166,203 according to Halifax figures.

The typical property was still 6.3% higher than a year ago, although the figures point to the house price recovery faltering this year.

Martin Ellis, housing economist for the Halifax, said that the figures were not a great surprise. "This pattern is in line with our view that house prices will be broadly unchanged over 2010 as a whole," he said.

"A shortage of properties for sale in 2009 contributed to an imbalance between supply and demand and was a key factor driving up house prices last year.

"An increase in the number of properties available for sale in recent months has helped to reduce the imbalance, relieving the upward pressure on prices."

He said that the continued low level of interest rates continued to keep demand steady. The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee is widely expected to announce later that it is to keep the Bank rate at 0.5%."

David Smith, of property consultants Carter Jonas had previously told the BBC "where house prices go from here is difficult to predict because there are so many factors at work at the moment ... the fallout from the Budget will certainly have a major role to play in the coming months, with uncertainty surrounding impending public sector cuts and higher taxes, and of course we still have the ever-present threat of interest rate rises in the mix".

He is right, except for the predicted future for house prices (e.g. take a look at the standard curve for any 'asset' above - we are just going past the 'return to normal' point).  In fact the only thing that will slow the second decline is the realisation that supply of new property under the last Government was allowed to consistently lag well behind known demand (helping to 'inflate' prices and provide a 'feeling of wealth') ... but to everyone's cost.  If you currently feel you are a beneficiary of this, please think again ... e.g. think about the 'hand' you have dealt to your children (and grand children) and all young people today (and how long those clever enough to spot this are likely to stay in this country as a result), about how much you (and everyone else) have actually paid in your lifetime to banks (e.g. double the value of your mortgage) and bankers bonuses (and inflated estate agent fees), the fact that you only actually recover any actual 'profit' when you die and when it's of no use to you (as you still have to live somewhere), and the fact the Government plan to fund your old age care by selling your house to pay for it (as they don't have the cash to do it any other way)!  Speculation and investment in property also does nothing to improve the massive trade imbalance (and our ability to fund the nation's public services) or halt rising Government debt ...  etc etc

The new Government do not appear to be planning anything with regard to easing constraints to building new property either, which will maintain the long term imbalance between supply and demand, and will obviously reduce the speed and final level of decline.  They have also reduced the top rate of capital gains to help the 'speculators' who benefited greatly from property speculation in the past, to maintain people's interest in property, and to once again reduce the speed and final level of decline. None of these things solve any of the real problems however, and just wait until public sector jobs are slashed and interest rates start to increase (due to the rising costs of imports e.g. petrol prices up 30% to £5.30/gallon).

A little more reality still needs to creep in I'm afraid ... and 'flawed economics' (Poweromics - self interest, and greed) needs be replaced by a 'new economics' (Leanomics - based on value, values, trust, honesty, responsibility and respect). Nothing else will do ... as nothing else will work.  Where do you think the millions of jobs are going to come from to reduce the trade deficit, reduce Government debt, and pay for public services?