House prices rise at the fastest pace for 18 months, but agents fear a UK coronavirus outbreak could stall the recovery
- House price inflation rises to 2.3% as average price reaches £216,092
- Property market picked up before the election and bounced in New Year
- But agents warn coronavirus could keep house hunters at home
- Estate agent: ‘We have already noticed enquiry levels have dropped’
House prices are rising at the fastest annual pace in 18 months, but there are fears that a coronavirus outbreak could stall the property market again.
The cost of the average home edged up by £200 in February to £216,092, according to the Nationwide index, with house price inflation reaching 2.3 per cent.
The figures based on mortgage approvals provided further evidence that a pick-up in the property market that began before the election in December accelerated in the New Year.
But there are concerns that if coronavirus cases step up in the UK, house hunters will stay home.
House prices have risen in recent months as property market activity picked up before and after the election, but agents say coronavirus could dent the recovery
Although some homeowners may be cheered by their homes rising in value, house prices climbing again makes it harder for first-time buyers and people hoping to move up the property ladder.
Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, said: ‘While overall economic growth ground to a halt in the final three months of 2019, labour market conditions remained buoyant and borrowing costs low. The decisive election outcome may have provided a boost to buyer sentiment.’
He added: ‘Recent data releases indicate that the housing market has gathered momentum in recent months and the latest house price figures are in line with that trend.
‘The number of residential property transactions and mortgages approved for house purchase increased around the turn of the year and surveyors have reported an increase in new buyer enquiries.’
House prices prices have stagnated in recent years, with the market hit by high prices, political uncertainty and Brexit
While reports indicate property market activity has picked up, those hoping to sell or move home could find their prospects dented by coronavirus.
Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, says: ‘We need to build up some momentum as the virus will inevitably have an impact on the property world just as it is on every business and we have already noticed enquiry levels have dropped over the last week or so.
We need to build up some momentum as the virus will inevitably have an impact on the property world
Jeremy Leaf, estate agent
‘Hopefully the market will shrug off these fears as hopefully the position stabilises.’
He added: ‘Recovery will only be sustained if stock levels and the pace of sales improve. However, the activity will be short-lived if sellers do not recognise the market remains sensitive and buyers won’t overpay.’
Homes have got slightly cheaper but remain near historically highs when compared to wages