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House prices ease for first time in nearly a year – ONS

House prices eased in April, official data showed on Wednesday, ending eleven consecutive months of rises.
According to the Office for National Statistics, month-on-month house prices fell 1.9%, or by 2.2% on a seasonally-adjusted basis.

UK average house prices increased by 8.9% over the year to April 2021, down from a record 9.9% in March. The increase was well below the consensus for a 12.2% gain and marked the first time that annual house price growth had slowed since July.

The boom in house prices has been fuelled by the stamp duty holiday. The tax break was initially due to end in March, and although it has since been extended, it meant there was a rush to complete ahead of the first deadline. The seasonally-adjusted number of transactions in March was estimated to be 183,170 – the highest on record – but that fell 36% in April to 117,860.

The average UK house price was £251,000 in April. Among the home nations, the price of a house in England was £268,000, a rise of 8.9% year-on-year, while in Wales it rose 15.6% to £185,000. In Scotland, house prices increased 6.3% to £161,000, and by 6.0% to £149,000 in Northern Ireland.

Sam Beckett, head of economic statistics at the ONS, said: ” UK average house prices fell on the month in April, ending eleven consecutive months of growth. Last month’s figure was probably inflated as buyers rushed to complete purchases.

“House prices continued to increase when compared to last year, with London once again showing the slowest annual growth, with the slowing of prices most apparent within inner London boroughs.”

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said: “The [stamp duty holiday] has been extended in England until June, when the threshold will be reduced to £250,000, so prices should rebound from April’s drop in the near-term. In addition, demand for outdoor space will continue to provide support.

“Nonetheless, we expect house prices to give back some of their recent gains towards the end of this year, as threshold for stamp duty reverts to £125,000 at the end of September and households’ real disposable income comes under pressure from higher CPI inflation and the removal of the furlough scheme.

“Indeed, in Scotland, where the threshold for stamp duty did return to its pre-Covid level at the end of March, prices fell by 4.1% month-on-month in April.”

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “This isn’t necessarily the beginning of the end for house price growth, it’s more likely to be a sign of what an arbitrary deadline can do to the market.

“Major price drops are usually the result of a serious shock to the system, like interest rates rising, unemployment or recession. All of these are possibilities at such an uncertain time, but none are expected. Despite inflation rising over its 2% target, the Bank of England doesn’t think it will have to raise interest rates, because it expects it to drop naturally as lower prices from spring 2020 fall out of the figures.

“Meanwhile, it predicts the unemployment rate will peak at 5.5% this autumn, well below previous forecasts.”

The ONS’s House Price Index is calculated using data from HM Land Registry, Registers of Scotland, and Land and Property Services Northern Ireland.

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