UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

from Breakingviews:

London real estate at an inflection point

By George Hay

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Most real estate valuers in London think property prices in the UK capital are about to fall. That prediction has been easy to make and easier to get wrong in the last five years. This time, the evidence that global investors’ favourite housing market has peaked is looking credible.

House prices in London as a whole are still rising on a monthly and annual basis, and are 20 percent more expensive than a year ago, according to the Office for National Statistics. But there is stasis in the process upstream. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ latest monthly survey shows a sharp dip in those wanting to buy in London, and an even sharper jump in those keen to sell.

Monthly sales volumes are off 17 percent in Greater London since December, says the Land Registry. A small majority of RICS’ members now expect values in the city to fall in sympathy.

Green shoots in the housing market?

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House prices have dropped, interest rates are low and plenty of people are straining at the leash to get on the housing ladder.

Now the Nationwide Building Society says house prices have risen for the first time since October 2007. 

from The Great Debate UK:

Deflation? It’s inflation you need to watch

-- David Kuo is a director at the financial Web site The Motley Fool. The views expressed are his own. --

david-kuo_motley-foolWhat are consumers supposed to make of the latest inflation numbers? Do we have inflation, deflation or a bit of stagflation?

Web round-up: Reaction to FSA’s bank regulation proposals

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The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published a blueprint for a shake-up of global banking regulations aimed at preventing a repeat of the current financial crisis. The report, authored by FSA Chairman Adair Turner, recommends an increase in banks’ minimum capital requirements, closer regulation of hedge funds as well as proposals to stop banks lending too much during boom years and measures to restrict the ability of banks to take excessive risks.

The report comes a week after FSA Chief Executive Hector Sants said in a speech at Thomson Reuters London offices that the banking sector should be “very frightened” of the regulator.

Web round-up: More gloom and doom on house prices

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There was more gloomy news for the housing market today as property website Rightmove announced that asking prices for houses in England and Wales were 9 percent lower than a year ago. New listings meanwhile were 57 percent lower than March 2008. The average asking price actually increased by 0.9 percent between February and March this year, but Rightmove warned that this was caused by new sellers being unrealistic about how much their homes are worth.

So what can be done to revive the stagnant housing market? Citywire has one radical suggestion: make sellers pay stamp duty rather than the buyers. Every year there are calls to abolish or reform this “flawed tax”, but Citywire’s Lorna Bourke says that making this switch would be an incentive to first-time buyers and would cost the government nothing. What sellers would say about this, however, is another story.

UK mortgages: “It’s not all doom and gloom”

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– Jane King is an independent mortgage adviser at Ash-Ridge Asset Management. The views expressed are her own. –

In the current climate, we have the irony of property suddenly becoming more affordable and yet lending is down by 52 percent in the year to January. The commonly held view is that it is almost impossible to get a mortgage and many first-time buyers are still frustrated in their efforts to get on the ladder. But it’s not all doom and gloom.

Rate cut round-up: “policy mistake” or “confidence boost”?

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The Bank of England’s decision to cut interest rates to a record low of 1.0 percent may have been widely predicted, but this did little to hold back the avalanche of commentary that began the moment the news came through at noon today.

Interest rates, which have now been cut five months in a row, are at the lowest level in the Bank’s 315-year history, and the list of people calling yet another easing pointless appeared to be getting longer.

Are interest rates at one percent the answer?

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The Bank of England has gone into further into uncharted territory with its decision to cut rates by half a point to just one percent. Many economists think they will be down to zero by the Spring.

But like gunfighter running out of bullets, the Bank is, in the view of some observers, just wasting ammunition by using the interest rate weapon.

Banks rescue package: will they start lending again?

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Melanie Bien, director, Savills Private Finance, is a guest commentator. The opinions expressed in this commentary are her own.

It is too early to say whether the latest bank rescue plan will have the desired effect of persuading the banks to start lending again. But it is a step in the right direction and we welcome it as a positive move as it may just remove the remaining stumbling blocks to getting the credit and mortgage markets functioning properly once more.
Clearly, something further had to be done. October’s £37bn bank recapitalisation did little to persuade banks to regain their appetite for lending. Credit continues to be difficult to come by – unless you have a large deposit or equity in your home and a clean credit history.

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