The Great Debate UK
- David Kuo is director of financial website The Motley Fool. The opinions expressed are his own.-
The housing market is probably one of the most keenly followed markets in Britain. Every month we are hit between the eyes with no fewer than eight separate indices that provide pointers to the state of play in the property market. These include supply side figures from Rightmove, demand side numbers from Nationwide and mixed-adjusted indices from the Department of Communities and Local Government.
The plethora of indices is enough to make anyone draw the curtains and lie down in a darkened room. But it is important to appreciate that each set of data will be different because they are drawn from very different data pools. For instance Rightmove’s index is based on sellers’ asking prices, which tend to be more optimistic than say, Nationwide’s index which is based on agreed sale prices. Additionally, Nationwide’s index is derived from mortgage approvals, and not everyone may need to apply for a mortgage.
Our anxiety over house prices probably stems from the fact that a home is the single biggest purchase that most of us will make in our lives. So, it is understandable that we want to know that our money is well spent. Worryingly, there are some seven million people who are hoping that rising house prices will save them from poverty because they have not put away enough money for their retirement.
The pig that is British property is furiously flapping its wings, but despite signs of a recovery in prices and activity, rest assured there will be no take-off.
The country, which witnessed a property bubble that made the U.S. seem sober and sensible in comparison, has seen prices fall by about 20 percent but still faces a tough recession, rising unemployment and serious short and long term questions about the price of financing.