Cheap housing loans – house prices up!

Critiquing the Mainly macro comments on house prices we pointed out that prices are a consequence of the interaction of supply and demand. Demand elements are frequently ignored by commentators. Below are some details on the impact of cheap home loans on house prices – another factor pushing up demand!

House prices as a multiple of average earnings are “within a whisker” of record levels set before the financial crisis, a City consultancy has warned.

The average UK house price is now 6.1 times average earnings, close to the peak of 6.4 it hit before the downturn, Fathom Consulting said. A rise in interest rates from their current low of 0.5% would lead to a correction, it said, although a return to “normal” rates was some way off.

Prices have been pushed up by the availability of cheap home loans, and would need to fall by 40% to bring the ratio back to the pre-2000 average of 3.5 times earnings, it added.

During the financial crisis, banks and building societies withdrew from lending, particularly to borrowers with small deposits. But since then, the government’s funding for lending scheme made loans cheaper for borrowers with substantial equity, and then help to buy brought back 95% mortgages. Lenders are now cutting ratesand easing lending criteria.

Fathom said this cheap borrowing had been the biggest driver for demand for homes. “Since 2013, the demand for housing has been turbocharged by chancellor [George] Osborne’s help-to-buy policy and the search for yield – which has resulted in the accumulation of housing wealth as an investment alternative for low-yielding financial assets,” it said. “As a consequence, house prices are now close to an all-time high of more than six times disposable income.”

The firm said couples buying together were increasingly taking on large loans relative to their income. Before the crisis fewer than 30% of joint mortgages were taken at more than 2.75 times income , but now that proportion has risen to more than a third.


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