Roundup: UK house prices fall in January as Brexit uncertainty continues

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, February 8, 2019
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LONDON, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- The British property market suffered one of its biggest monthly falls since the financial crisis last month as uncertainty over Brexit undermined buyers' confidence, a British newspaper reported Thursday.

The average price of a home across the country slumped 2.9 percent to 223,691 pounds (290,217 U.S. dollars) in January, wiping almost 7,000 pounds (9,081 U.S. dollars) of its value, according to latest figures from mortgage lender Halifax, the London-based Evening Standard reported.

The fall brought the annual rate of house price inflation down to just 0.8 percent.

The month-on-month change is a volatile measure of house prices. The annual change is more stable.

"There's no doubt that the next year will be important for the housing market with much of the immediate focus on what impact Brexit may have," said Halifax managing director Russell Galley.

Halifax is one of Britain's biggest mortgage lenders.

"However, more fundamentally it is key underlying factors of supply and demand that will ultimately shape the market."

But property experts said the alarming scale of the fall pointed to "grim conditions" in a market that has virtually ground to a halt amid the chaos of the Brexit negotiations.

Jonathan Hopper, managing director of buying agents Garrington Property Finders, said: "The irony is the UK's economic fundamentals remain solid: a higher proportion of Britons than ever are in work, average wages are rising at a decent clip and mortgages are cheap."

"But the confidence-sapping uncertainty of Brexit is getting worse, not better, and the next few months will be decisive. Barring an improbable Brexit solution that magically avoids both economic and political turmoil, a return to universally rising prices appears unlikely any time soon."

North London estate agent Jeremy Leaf said, "What we are seeing on the ground is the release of some pent-up demand prompting more listings, viewings and offers over the past few weeks than we dared hope for."

"However, interest is very patchy and real value must be perceived, otherwise little market change will result," he said.

"Looking forward, we do not expect any significant improvement at least until the odds on a Brexit deal improve," he added.

Meanwhile, economists also expect the housing market to stay sluggish this year.

Hansen Lu, a property economist at consultancy Capital Economics, said that he thinks a house price collapse is unlikely, even if the UK departs the EU without an agreement.

"We therefore expect annual house price growth to bump along at its current rate, ending 2019 at 1 percent," Lu said.

"That is assuming the UK exits the EU (European Union) with a deal," he said. "If the UK exits without a deal, house price growth would be even slower, or even fall gently. But a correction in prices would still be unlikely." Enditem

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