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Category: Market Pulse

Interest Rates Fluctuate as House Prices Remain High

Buy to let investors, first time buyers and private home owners in England and Northern Ireland will make savings from the recent revision to Stamp Duty thresholds.

The increased threshold to £250,000 – up from £125,000 – has been welcomed as a slight boost to the market. First time buyers can look forward to an increased threshold of from £300,000 to £425,000). They can also buy a property up to the value of £625,000 and still claim relief (that’s an increase from £500,000 previously). Unlike his cut to the 45 per cent higher earner’s tax rate (which has subsequently been reversed), the public did welcome this part of the new chancellor Kwasai Kwarteng’s ‘mini budget.’

Buy to let landlords still pay additional three per cent

According to its UK House Price Index report for September, rival portal Zoopla said the cuts would affect 43 per cent of properties on its site (ie the properties would be Stamp Duty-free). Although, of course, buy to let landlords and second home owners in general will still have to pay a three per cent Stamp Duty cost.

After doing some calculations Rightmove executives said around 45 per cent of the houses and flats for sale on their property portal were already exempt from Stamp Duty – even before the increased thresholds were applied.

North of England to benefit most from Stamp Duty changes

Areas where property prices are least expensive, such as the north of England, will benefit most from the cuts since they’ll make the properties more affordable. The north of the country – together with the Midlands – is already enjoying the fruits of relocation. With more jobs moving to Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and Liverpool, there’s a bigger demand for properties in these busier cities.  Buy to let investors were benefiting in particular, thanks to high yields.

Many analysts are predicting a property crash of up to 15 per cent next year as grocery price hikes and the impact of rising energy bills on household finances really take hold. Rising mortgage interest rates will add to the unaffordability of moving home. 

Large variations in salary percentages for housing

One recent lender – Nationwide – pointed out that the average UK property works out at almost seven times the cost of the average take-home pay for individuals. That works out at 40 per cent per month of a salary going towards housing costs. Variations are wide though – in the city the figure is around 64 per cent (or 11 times the average take-home pay), whereas in the north of England, housing payments take up just 26 per cent (4.5 per cent) of a salary.

As the markets went in to turmoil this week, lenders withdrew hundreds of mortgage products. The result was many house sales fell through as buyers panicked over rocketing interest rates. After the chancellor’s U-turn on the higher tax earning rate, the panic began to subside and rates fell slightly. What will happen next with the economy as this new government attempts to make its mark is anyone’s guess. But one thing is for sure, it’s not going to be even sailing for some time to come.

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A woman working on a laptop

Property Prices Still Rising as Land Registry Set Out New Digital Plans

The cost of the average property in the UK last month was £294,260, according to Halifax’s records. 

That was a jump of 0.4 per cent on the previous month, but down 0.5 per cent on typical monthly prices rises. Annually the rate of growth has fallen from 11.8 per cent in July to 11.5 per cent in August. Having said that, property has still increased by £30,000 over the past 12 months. Over the past decade the price of your typical property has actually increased by an astounding 60 per cent.

Today’s slowing down and falling of average growth points very much to the cost of living crisis beginning to hit in the UK. Certainly, the country now expects to go in to recession soon. 

The Bank of England’s monetary policy committee is expected to raise interest rates again when it meets later this month. The current base rate is at 1.75 per cent – the highest since 2009 – and economists predict it will rise by another 0.5 per cent in September. This is in response to spiralling inflation, with some analysts fearing it could rise to more than 18 per cent by January 2023.  

Meanwhile, the energy cap rise is expected to reach £2,500 in October – hitting both householders and businesses (leading to unemployment fears). 

The increasing rise in mortgage interest repayments is prompting many in the property industry to advise re-mortgaging as soon as possible – before those monthly payments become unaffordable.

Barratt’s home reservations beneath pandemic levels

Even the country’s major housebuilder Barratt Developments said it expected house prices to fall. This was in response to a slowing down of the number of house reservations – to the extent it’s less than before the pandemic hit. 

In contrast to the expectation of falling house prices and a forthcoming recession, good news comes in the form of ‘digitalisation of the house buying and selling process.’

Land Registry to undergo ‘digital transformation’

Land Registry has announced plans to bring the process more up to date and fit for ‘a paperless and much more transparent society.’

Their three-year business plan focuses on five key areas – 

  • Secure and efficient land registration
  • Buying and selling of property to be achieved digitally
  • Providing real time information
  • Making digital register info more accessible
  • Work with the property market to look at innovation

In effect then all property applications to the Register are to become digital by the end of this year. The need for digitalisation of the buying and selling process was clear after it emerged it took 49 per cent longer to complete housing transactions last year than in 2007.

In terms of ‘real time information,’ Land Registry says all local land charge data will be online by 2026 while the Registry itself is to become ‘more accessible and easier to use.’

Timothy Douglas, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Propertymark, said: “The technological mindset of consumers has advanced considerably in recent years, and HM Land Registry’s 2022+ strategy compliments moves we are seeing in the sector to enhance and improve home buying and selling.”

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More Rentals Available in Capital Sees ‘Flattening’ of Rents

More rental properties are available in the capital, resulting in a lowering of monthly rents, according to one leading estate agent. 

There are in fact 60 per cent more rental properties advertised in London this month – nearly a quarter more than there was at the start of the pandemic. That’s still 40 per cent fewer than the same time last year (when many tenants moved home). At that time, owners of holiday lets also turned to long-term renting following the effective closure of the tourist market.

Rental income falling in the capital

The data, from Chestertons estate agents, also revealed that many rental properties were from ‘accidental landlords.’ These could be buy to let landlords put off by the low selling prices in the capital. They could also be couples looking to save money by co-habiting and renting out the other property. 

The result is the increase in supply is expected to flatten rental prices in the city.

House price drops of seven per cent by 2024

At the same time, homeowners can expect the value of their property to plummet over the next couple of years. Experts began to speculate last week following the latest Office for National Statistics figures, which showed a five per cent fall in house price growth between May and June. Despite this, the average UK house price was £286,000 in June – £20,000 higher than the same time last year.

The predictions are for a seven per cent fall in property prices over the next two years. This is fuelled by expectations that the Bank of England will increase interest rates to 3.75 per cent in April next year. It is currently sitting at 1.75 per cent. In London and the South East – where prices are highest compared to average incomes – the price drops are likely be even more severe. There the price of property could fall by as much as 12 per cent.

Gazumping on the rise 

Rightmove recording a drop of £23,000 in asking prices for 

property in London this month. The result has been an increase in gazumping tactics, according to several estate agents in the capital. 

One conveyancer, from the capital’s Osbornes Law firm said this form of ‘price chipping’ pointed to a weaker market – one that was already swinging from seller to buyer.

A shortage in the number of homes for sale is continuing to support the property market’s frenetic activity but higher mortgage interest rates and increasing inflation is expected to slow things down considerably. To the extent that next year is expected to show the slowest property market activity in over a decade.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Anthony Codling, of property website Twindig, tempered pessimistic attitudes by reminding the doom-mongers: “We tend to overestimate the likelihood of bad things happening. House prices have fallen in only 16 out of the last 91 years.

‘Increasing living costs and rising mortgage rates are likely to temper house price growth…once we have won the war on inflation we can expect prices to continue to rise.”

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For sale sign outside a house

Signs the Market is Slowing – and not just for Summer

The property market continues to flourish as would-be buyers rush to settle purchases before mortgage interest rates rise further. And chains continue to fall apart as gazumping flourishes and desperation rises. 

And it’s not just the buyers who are desperate – conveyances too are turning away work, unable to cope with the demand, according to one recent property analyst.

Country and Seaside slowdowns

Last year’s hot spots such as countryside villages and seaside retreats are still popular but, as one Cornwall estate agent put it: “the froth is coming off the market.” 

Truro estate agent Duncan Ley said: “It’s a lot less frantic than it was — where you’d get ten competing bids on a property last year, there’s now maybe two or three, and surveyors are being a lot more conservative about values.”

Neighbouring Cornwall estate agents report similar, saying poor or overpriced properties are being left – unlike last year when ‘pretty much anything went.

And it’s a similar story in Norfolk where demand is definitely falling, according to one estate agent in Burnham Market – to the extent it’s “pretty much a trickle.” 

Property reductions appearing in South East

Those looking for price reductions though, would be better heading north where property purchasers HBB Solutions say the biggest property price discounts are in the North West, West Midlands, Yorkshire and Wales. But further south there’s the appearance of shifting prices too. In the South East, for instance, one in four properties have reduced their asking price.

‘Secret sales’ on the up

Property analystists TwentyCi expect 18,600 more properties than last year to be sold privately ie without being publicly advertised. And it’s not just million pound properties either – a lot of estate agents already have lists of ready buyers fed up with being previously gazumped and willing to go above the asking price.

Rightmove’s latest figure show the average home asking price dropped by £4,795 for the first time this year. It brings the asking price of the typical property in England and Wales to £365,173. That was a drop of 1.3 per cent between July and August. 

Executives at the property portal attributed to fall to the summer holiday period, insisting the market would finish with seven per cent year-on-year growth by December this year. But other property onlookers believe it’s more than that. They insist the speedy rise in the cost of living is beginning to take effect.

New mortgages costing more than old

The Bank of England’s base interest rate rise this month was the largest increase in 27 years. For the first time in almost a decade the typical interest rate for new mortgages is higher than for existing mortgages. 

Lending rates have risen from one per cent to four per cent within the past year – substantially increasing monthly mortgage costs for many borrowers.

When rates have risen this dramatically in the past it has been during a period when the property market was extremely slow.

However, responsible lending this time round (compared to the 2007 recession) means many homeowners haven’t over-stretched their budgets, insist analysts. That means we’re not expecting too many repossessions.

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UK Monthly House Prices Fall Again

The cost of the average property was down in July by 0.1 per cent to £293,221.

That’s according to the latest Halifax House Price Index, where – not surprisingly – analysts attribute the monthly fall to the increasingly tightening cost of living crisis, as well as the jump in mortgage interest rates.

Monthly mortgage hikes strike

The Bank of England increased its interest rate by 0.5 per cent this week. It took the UK base rate to 1.75 per cent, meaning those on tracker and variable mortgage rates will see a hike in their monthly payments. The interest rate rise itself was the highest in 27 years. 

Banking organisation UK Finance say there are around 800,000 borrowers on a tracker mortgage and another 1.1 million on a Standard Variable Rate (SVR) deal. 

The best two-year mortgage package is already more than two per cent higher than in January this year, according to a survey by L&C Mortgages. That means a typical £150,000 repayment mortgage over 25 years is now £159 higher per month, while a £150,000 tracker mortgage with 20 years remaining would go up £38 a month. Meanwhile, there are around 1.3m fixed-rate mortgage deals due to end between now and the end of the year.

Many economists have been expecting property prices to fall since the start of the year. Yet despite the drop (from 12.5 per cent to 11.8 per cent), property is still around £30,000 higher in value than in July 2020 when the market could only be described as ‘frenzied.’ There is plenty of agreement across the industry that prices are expected to drop further in 2023.

Mortgage approvals falling

June saw mortgage approvals down for the fifth month in a row. The number of householders granted finance fell from 65,681 in May fell to 63,726 last month. Both figures are lower than the month before the pandemic struck (February 2020) when 67,000 mortgages were approved.

And yet, there are still plenty of house transactions taking place. According to property research company TwentyCi, there are, in July, around 10 per cent more homeowners getting ready to move compared to April this year. 

The company’s MD Colin Bradshaw said: “Our previous observation that the owner-occupied sector appears to be detached from the woes that are befalling the wider economy continues to hold true. Transactional levels remain greater than 2019 and we are yet to see a sharp re calibration of the residential property market in either price or volume.” 

Nearly 1.2 million property transactions are expected to have taken place in 2022 by the end of the year. Sales in Inner London have picked up again – at a 28 per cent increase since the start of the pandemic. 

Repossessions are ‘up’

Mortgage arrears fell for the first three months of the year – a drop of almost four thousand households. But repossessions are up this quarter (from 320 properties to 390) according to statistics from the latest UK Finance data. Of those properties 580 were homeowner mortgaged and 370 buy-to-let properties. 

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EPCs Proving a Pain for Landlords

Around 40 per cent of private rentals in England aren’t going to make the government targets for energy efficiency, it’s been claimed.

And, landlords whose properties are in blocks of flats are particularly hampered due to a ‘flawed’ assessment process, according to Hamptons.

The English Housing Survey shows that between 2012 and 2020 the number of rented homes which had a C energy rating increased by 20 per cent (from 19 per cent to 39 per cent).  

All new tenancies to have ‘C’ rating by 2025

Yet the government’s draft strategy wants all new privately rented properties to have a C rating in their Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) by the year 2025. Otherwise, it will be against the law for landlords to let the properties out. By 2028 this demand for an EPC ‘C’ rating is to be extended to all rented properties. And yet, this is a figure that Propertymark insists is unattainable for many landlords. 

Difficulties in incentivising landlords to upgrade

Timothy Douglas, head of policy and campaigns for Propertymark said landlords didn’t have the same incentive as home owners to make their properties more energy efficient because they wouldn’t directly benefit.

He added: “Our member agents are already seeing rental properties disappearing from the market for a variety of reasons and there is a real danger more could go with the EPC rating target hanging over them.”

The UK government has already pledged to have a net zero target by 2050. England’s private rental sector of 4.4 million properties makes up nearly one fifth of the total housing stock in the country so it’s an important factor in that equation.

Private rental sector lagging behind for EPCs 

The same English Housing Survey shows that the housing association sector is leading in terms of energy efficiency, with 68 per cent of their homes boasting a ‘C’ rating. Local authorities are second highest in term of providing ‘green’ homes, with 61 per cent of houses and flats meeting the target. Home owners don’t have an impressive record though – only 42 per cent of properties comply with the ‘C’ standard.

Assessors give varying ratings for similar properties

Meanwhile, a report by upmarket estate agents Hamptons found that assessors were grading very similar properties differently – especially in blocks of flats. This was despite all individual homes having the same characteristics in terms of size, construction and thickness of the walls. He claimed that in some blocks of flats, EPC rating fluctuated wildly, from an A to a G rating.  

David Fell, of Hamptons, said independent assessors often used different assumptions about a property’s energy efficiency. This he said was mainly based on the extent of cavity wall insulation.

One energy assessor admitted that EPC ratings for the same block of flats can vary depending on who is making the assessment. In other words, the practice isn’t an exact science. But he did point out that here was a difference in heat variation between ground and top floor properties (the lower property being colder).

One mortgage broker warned that poor energy ratings could hit landlords hard in the pocket. 

Chris Sykes, of mortgage broker Private Finance, said the gap was likely to widen. “I can see a premium in mortgage rates being put on properties that aren’t EPC band C or above,” he said.

A government spokesman said they were already looking at ways to improve the EPC assessment process.

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New Report Upbeat for Property Prices

Property prices in the UK will remain strong and keep rising right through to 2024 and beyond, according to a leading accountancy firm report, released this week. 

Instead of plateauing or falling, the EY report predicts growth slowing to 1.8 per cent in 2023 and 1.2 per cent the following year. 

Property rises almost seven per cent higher than GDP

It goes on to insist that a housing crash is highly unlikely even despite the squeeze on household budgets (UK inflation rose to a 40-year high of 9.1 per cent in May), fall in government support and escalating interest rates. When compared to GDP growth over the past couple of years, the report says, the housing market has fared so much better, with a ‘real’ price rise of eight per cent compared to 1.2 per cent. 

That’s because in March 2022 the average property had risen by £48,000 (21 per cent) in just two years. The lower figure of eight per cent is when inflation is taken in to account.

Nationwide analysts show less optimism 

Interestingly, the Nationwide building society – whose monthly house price index is due any time now – isn’t issuing a forecasting house price report due to the ongoing upheaval in the economy. Upmarket property firm Knight Frank show no such reservations – the have increased their forecasted house price growth figure from five per cent to eight per cent for this year.

Analysts at the Nationwide don’t predict as buoyant a market as either EY or Frank Knight. Looking at mortgage figures they see a decrease in activity, with approvals down by 3,500 to 66,000 in April compared to the previous month. Borrowing was down £4.1bn from £6.4bn for the same period. In both cases this was lower than before the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

Why EY report remains positive for market

The Bank of England base rate has, of course, gone up post-pandemic – five times recently, pushing up mortgage costs for those on variable rates (or about to be). But, argues the EY report, existing home owners tend to be older and with higher salaries. They are also more likely to have been savers during the three periods of lockdown – a nest egg that can be converted into a bigger mortgage deposit.

Also, during previous recessions, house prices tended to fall when unemployment rose, forcing reluctant householders to sell their homes after a job loss. Today, unemployment is at its lowest in 50 years – 3.8 per cent in April and the lowest since the 1970s – sparking no such fears. 

Supply of housing too is in short supply. And that’s not just down to the number of New Builds – older homeowners are holding on to their property for longer, insists the report. As a nation we are living longer than previous generations. This also means fewer larger three and four-bedroom properties coming on to the market (not everyone wants to downsize). 

Add to that the fact that many of the smaller one and two-bedroom properties belong to buy to let landlords. They tend to be more interested in holding on to property for long-term capital appreciation.

Then there is the undisputable fact that although mortgage rates are rising, they are still historically low.

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Expected Interest Rate Rise to Curb Growing House Prices

House price growth is expected to slow considerably after this week when it’s believed the Bank of England will once again increase interest rates – for the fifth time in succession.

This time some economists are forecasting that they may rise by half a per cent, rather than by a quarter (as in recent rises). This would increase the interest rate to 1.5 per cent. But, as many in the finance sector point out, the Bank of England has little choice but to put up rates in order to help curb escalating inflation. Right now, inflation is at nine per cent. That’s the highest it has been in the last four decades. 

Fixed rate mortgage deals double in cost 

Many in the property market, especially prospective buyers, reckon increasing interest rates is no bad thing since it should mean a levelling out of house prices. That’s because fewer buyers will be prepared to take on a larger mortgage in light of the current cost of living crisis. That’s if they could even afford them in the first place; some two and five-year fixed rate deals have actually doubled in cost since last October. 

At the same time, mortgage lenders will be reluctant to hand out loans to those in ‘a vulnerable position’, with many already having tightened their lending criteria in recent weeks. Self-employed individuals, freelancers and those in industries making large-scale redundancies say they are penalised by lenders refusing to consider lending them mortgage funds. The Bank of England says its figures show that mortgage levels has fallen to their lowest level in two years. 

Average property costs around £289,099

House prices are still continuing to rise – albeit at a slower pace than before. According to the Halifax, the cost of the average house in the UK increased 10 per cent in May year on year. It meant buyers were having to typically pay around £289,099 for their new home. Nationwide, which also calculates the average house price based on the number of mortgages agreed, put its figure just £20,000 lower at around £269,914. The Office of National Statistics put the typical house in England and Wales at £278,436. That was for March, with the calculations based on completed home sales.

The expected rate rise announcement on Thursday has prompted one buying agent and property expert to predict that prices will be two per cent higher this time next year. 

“It will dampen enthusiasm but it won’t cause prices to fall. House price inflation this time next year will be two per cent rather than five per cent,” said Henry Pryor.

Zoopla announced this week that one in 20 properties for sale on its portal had dropped their asking price. The cut was usually for around nine per cent of the total.

PMs new policy worsens housing supply

The one saving grace for house prices though is the excessive demand compared to supply. Despite promises the government has continually failed to deliver the new number of houses it promised to build. And Boris Johnstone’s policy announcement last week, giving householders in England the right to buy their housing association home, will exacerbate the situation. In the sense, it will make the supply crisis even worse.

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Bad News for First Time Buyers – Good News for Landlords

Fewer recorded property sales and increasingly higher mortgage rates show that the cost of living crisis is finally beginning to bite the property market. 

According to the latest HM Revenue & Customs figures, the 106,780 properties sold last month was the lowest figure since the stamp duty holiday came to end six months ago. 

Mortgage interest rates highest in 13 years

The drop of 10.5 per cent coincided with a six month rise in mortgage rates from 1.29 per cent to 2.35 per cent. That mortgage interest rise was itself the biggest leap for 13 years. It follows reports that lenders are rapidly withdrawing existing rates and increasing them at short notice. 

Mortgage lending criteria tightening

The lending criteria too is changing with stricter rules concerning self-employed individuals and those in ‘risky’ professions. The amount someone can borrow compared to their salary is also reducing, according to many first-time buyers.

Referring to the big bank and building society lending institutions, Mortgage broker Sabrina Hall said: “If something is making them nervous, they will tweak the credit score system in the background to set the bar higher for those people that they consider to be a high risk.”

Despite Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak yesterday promising a windfall tax on energy providers to pay for a £15bn package of support for UK households, the energy price cap is still expected to rise. Analysts say it will go up by 40 per cent, to £2,800, in September. At the same time, a Which? Report shows 265 supermarket grocery items have risen in price by more than 20 percent over the past two years. It means higher mortgage interest rates will only heap further pressure on existing households who are faced with re-mortgaging in the near future.

Rents expected to rise in line with demand

Getting back to property prices, rents too are expected to start going up – according to the April quarterly property market analysis by surveyors’ body RICS. More than 63 per cent of surveyors are convinced tenants will be asked to pay more over the next three months. To the extent it will be the highest rents since RICS began recording the data back in 1999.

The prediction is backed up by the fact that just over half of RICS members (52 per cent) reported an increase in rental demand between Feb to April. In Glasgow, the average property is being let in eight days. 

Landlord yields to increase

Researchers at Capital Economics reckon rents will go up by up to six per cent by the end of this year. It means gross yields should keep rising to 4.9 per cent by the end of 2024. The average yield is currently sitting at 4.3 per cent. 

That’s because they expect tenant demand to increase even higher as owning a property becomes just a dream for more first-time buyers, thanks to rising mortgage interest rates. At the same time property portal Rightmove recorded a 50 per cent drop in available properties to rent year-on-year. 

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Could Buy to Let Landlords Lose Out?

Will rising interest rates result in more buy to let landlords selling up? That’s the prediction of some property analysts with further Bank of England base rate increases expected over the coming months. 

They say smaller landlords, in particular, may feel the cost of rising interest rates more than others, especially since the gradual stripping away of mortgage interest relief. Then there is the necessary energy improvements and the boost to Tenant’s Rights. 

Corporate landlords more likely to ride storm

Corporate landlords and institutional investors aiming at the Buy to Rent and serviced apartments sectors will be more likely to absorb the rising costs. 

But it’s not just small buy to let landlords who will feel the strain. House owners too will be hit, with inflation now at nine per cent – the highest it’s been in four decades. And, it’s predicted to rise to 10 per cent before the year is out. 

There could be light at the end of the tunnel for smaller buy to let landlords though. Research group Capital Economics are predicting that, later this year, the cost of a monthly mortgage will be higher than monthly rent for the first time since 2004.

Capital Economics’ Andrew Wishart, said: “When mortgage payments have exceeded rents in the past, it has been a harbinger of house price falls. That’s because prospective buyers choose to rent instead when buying is more expensive, weighing on demand.”

Gap between house prices and earnings biggest in 40 years

Nationwide says the gap between house prices and earnings is the widest it has ever been, with the average home costing 6.8 times the average salary. And, despite this, the cost of property is still rising. ONS figures showed this week that the price of your average property in England was 9.9 up year-on year in March. That means your typical property is just short of £300,000 at £297,524. First time buyers don’t even get a look in.

Halifax said between March and April this year, prices rose by around £3,000 (or 1.1 per cent). That wasn’t as high as the rise (1.4 per cent) between February and March, but it still wasn’t going down. Property has been steadily rising month on month since February 2021.

No sign of property price falls

Those waiting for prices to fall may be waiting a long time yet. That’s because there were 28 per cent more sales in April than there were in January this year. Admittedly, it’s not exactly red hot, but there are certainly no signs of a big let-up in the property market yet. 

Once again solicitors and surveyors are being forced to work overtime to keep up with demand, with buyers rushing to finalise deals. Because, although the cost of living is rising sharply and mortgage interest rates will surely go up again at least one more time this year, there is still a huge shortage in supply of housing. It isn’t helped by the fact many developers have purchased land but aren’t building on it. Planning approval for developments is still taking months, even years to come through. For the sake of the property market in general, surely speed is off the essence?

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