Brits more confident about property market outlook, survey shows

Londoners show the most confidence about prospects for the housing market

Britons are becoming increasingly confident in the outlook for the housing market, according to the latest Halifax Housing Market Confidence tracker published today (Wednesday 25 April).

Over one in three, 39%, of respondents predict that house prices nationally will increase over the next year, almost double the proportion that believe house prices will fall (20%).

As a result, the headline House Price Outlook balance, that is the difference between the proportion of people that expect house prices to rise rather than fall, increased to an overall balance score of +19%in March. This is more than double the reading of +7% in January’s survey. This is also the most positive view since the Halifax began measuring consumer confidence in the housing market 12 months ago.

All 11 regions saw a greater number of respondents with a belief that house prices will rise rather than fall over the next year. This compares with eight regions in January and just three in last October’s survey.

But a distinct north/south divide has become ever more apparent, with the average House Price Outlook balance in the south +26, more than double that in the north of +12. The north/south divide gap has widened significantly since January’s survey when housing sentiment in the south at +8 was only slightly more positive than in the north at +6.

Londoners remain the most confident about the prospects for the housing market with an overall net balance of +29, followed by the East +26, the South West +24 and the South East +23. At the other end of the spectrum, those in the North East have the least positive outlook for house prices at +6.

Consistent with the improvement in house price expectations, the net balance of those that believe it is a good time to sell has improved significantly; almost halving from -64 in January to -38 in March.

Despite this improvement in sentiment regarding selling, over half, 55%, think now is currently a good time to buy. That is more than double the proportion that believe it is a good time to sell at 24%.

Notwithstanding the improvement in sentiment regarding the housing market outlook, nearly Two thirds, 61%, identified concerns over job security as the main headwind facing potential home buyers.

The challenges of raising a deposit were identified as the second biggest constraint at 45%. Additionally, over a quarter of all respondents thought that the state of household finances (27%) and the general availability of mortgages (25%) were major obstacles to home buying.

Some 71% predict that the cost of renting in the private sector will increase over the next 12 months, compared with just 2% who think that rents will fall. This resulted in a net balance of +69 in March, up from +58 in January.

‘It is encouraging that the level of consumer confidence in the housing market continues to improve, albeit from a very low base. This is consistent with the broad stability that we have been seeing in house prices nationally in recent months. According to the latest Halifax House Price Index, house prices in the first quarter of 2012 were just 0.1% lower than the final quarter of 2011,’ said Martin Ellis, housing economist at the Halifax.

‘There is, however, a substantial north/south divide to the improvement in housing confidence which is reflective of property prices in the South currently more resilient than in the North. Overall, we continue to expect little overall movement in prices this year provided that the UK economy does not suffer a pronounced weakening,’ he added.

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