A look into our crystal ball, 2018, key trends to look out for

As the unpredictable, uncertain 2017 draws to a close, we have reflected on the year behind us and have taken a brief look at the key trends to look out for in 2018.

  1. Without doubt the housing sector will remain top of the government’s agenda in 2018, ahead of Brexit. With many considering supply shortages as the biggest threat to the UK economy, in our recent article entitled “Without the right foundations, 300,000 new homes will simply not get built” we consider the true changes needed to boost housing supply in 2018, including proper collaboration between the public and private sector and proper reform of the planning system. Could 2018 be the year that the government introduces significant changes to truly drive the housebuilding sector forward?
  2. Should economic growth exceed expectations in 2018, it is likely the Monetary Policy Committee will raise interest rates, with some predicting a double rate rise over the course of the year. Whilst the Royal Wedding in May is predicted to boost the UK economy, a rate rise will also greatly depend on whether inflation has now reached a peak. However, a 25 – 50 bps rate rise to historically low rates, is unlikely to have any significant consequences to the housing market in the short term. In the third quarter of the year, the Building Societies Association reported that 90% of new mortgages taken out with Building Societies were on a fixed rate. The real impact of rate rises and the time to truly be concerned is yet to come, when, in 2/3/5 years’ time these fixed rates expire, and homeowners find themselves on much higher variable rates or having to choose between other higher rate products.
  3. A year ago, we predicted a continued rise in the Build-to-Rent sector as stretched affordability in certain parts of the country would leave the desire for home-ownership as a distant dream for many, increasing demand for quality rented accommodation. Affordability issues have not disappeared and therefore this sector continues to grow, and we anticipate this to remain the case in 2018.
  4. The main tranche of the market where we expect further strong activity is that of the first-time buyers (FTBs). In 2017 FTB activity was significant; according to UK Finance, there was a 10.5% increase in the number of loans for house purchase to FTBs in October 2017 when compared to a year earlier. We expect this trend to continue boosted by the extension in Help-to-Buy and importantly, the scrapping of stamp duty for FTBs up to £300k on properties valued less than £500k. This should also encourage developers to build units below this threshold as this, in the right location, is where they should find a steady stream of demand.
  5. And lastly, whilst market growth will be muted in 2018, we do anticipate above-average growth in the North West, North East and Yorkshire and Humberside. Regions where affordability is most stretched, including London and the South East, are likely to underperform the rest of the country. However, even within this part of the country, there will continue to be some growth in some locations, such as in the up and coming London boroughs, those benefiting from the Elizabeth Line, and along the commuter belt where prices will remain under upward pressure because of supply shortages.