I am sure for many of you reading this article it feels like we have been on a long journey through the housing market downturn and out the other side.
It was five years ago when the Bank of England lowered the base rate to 0.5%, a historical low. Even now, experts are predicting that it may be next year before we start to see interest rates rising and, in my view; the increase will need to be gradual in order to limit the shock to the system for consumers who have been used to paying such low interest rates for years.
Bank policy makers have been looking at increasing rates since 2011 when three members of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted for an increase. Things have moved on since then and the UK economy has expanded by 0.8% so far in the first quarter of this year, making that five consecutive quarters of growth. Although higher interest rates will be needed to keep inflation in check, on the assumption that growth continues at recent rates, in my opinion, we are unlikely to see the end point for interest rates for a few years. Even then interest rates will potentially be lower than the average rates before the market downturn.
This is a strong picture compared to 2011 when there were only glimmers of growth, and the favourite phrase at that time was “signs of green shoots appearing”. However, at the beginning of 2012 we were all watching and waiting for a double dip recession and there was also speculation on a triple dip recession reflected by a weaker sterling. Since then there has been a complete turnaround in market conditions and the pound’s 10% surge in the past 12 months made it a top performer amongst the 10 developed nation countries tracked by Bloomberg Correlation-weighted indexes. This all indicates to Britain being on course for a sixth straight quarter in the three months to June, the first since the financial crisis.
We are no longer talking about double dip recessions but instead are talking about double digit annual house price growth. According to Nationwide, there have been two months of double digit house price increases and May was 11.1% up year-on-year and 0.7% up on April 2014. The is lower than April’s month-on-month increase of 1.2% but Nationwide say that the slowdown could be attributed to the new mortgage lending rules which officially started in April. Interestingly, the average house price is now £186,512, the highest figure since records began in 1991.
The Bank of England’s twice yearly Systemic Risk Survey showed that 40% of UK banks, building societies and asset managers said the risk of decreases in house prices posed a “key risk” to the economy, compared with 36% of respondents in November 2013 and just 14% in the H2 2012. The Bank also reported that the perceived probability of a fresh financial crisis had fallen to a new low. Almost two-thirds of the 72 participants considered the risk of a “high impact” event to be “low” or “very low”, while just 3% considered it to be “very high” or “high”, the lowest number since records began in 2008.
We should take comfort in what these key industry indicators show, as after all we want to be moving on from the crisis and looking forward to a healthy market to operate in.