What does 2017 have in store for the housing market?

For a widely touted annus horribilis, 2016 ended on a surprising high for the housing market: the UK economy fared better than expected, housing market slowed but nationally prices held steady, and – at least for now – much of the referendum induced fallout abated.

Looking ahead, below are our themes and predictions for 2017:

stocksnap_wx191dv28c Article 50 and Brexit uncertainty

No prediction for this year would be complete without Brexit. Theresa May’s self-imposed deadline to trigger Article 50 by the end of March is looming closer but it remains unclear how this will impact the UK in the short and long term. What we can be sure of is that there will be further fluctuations in sentiment because of uncertainty.

What could this mean for the housing market?

Low transaction levels are the main driver behind flat growth forecasts for the market this year, although new builds may benefit from the lack of second-hand stock on the market. However, if concerns for the stability of economic growth increase and banks further tighten mortgage criteria, the likelihood of homeowners struggling to remortgage will increase and we are likely to witness a rise in repossessions.

The outlook for inflation

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) will spend the year closely monitoring inflation, which is expected to rise sharply.

What could this mean for the housing market?

Rising inflation will be felt by UK households who will see their disposable income eroded. Whilst low interest rates will continue to support households, any rise in mortgage rates will have a negative impact on the housing market.

Additionally, rising costs are already having an impact on the construction sector. Although the latest Markit/CIPS UK Construction PMI was very positive, inflation has led to a higher cost of raw material imports. Theoretically, this could lead to a slowdown in the pace of construction, although it is more likely that these costs will be passed onto customers.

What remains unclear is when the MPC will feel the need to step in and curb rising inflation with an increase in interest rates. The result of the Brexit vote has meant that its unlikely to be this year, but the impact of the rise in the cost of goods and services is one to watch in 2017.

 Housing market and affordability

The eagerly anticipated government housing white paper will be published this month, covering planning reforms to accelerate housebuilding and – presumably – address the issue of affordability.

What will this mean for the housing market?

Amid reports of the number of young homeowners in England continuing to fall and, according to Nationwide, national house prices at 5.3x earnings, the white paper is expected to focus on solving the housing crisis in this country. It is expected that it will include measures to support and enable local governments, home-buyers, and developers.

It is anticipated that the document will include amongst other things, measures to free up land for new supply, including plans for unlocking Brownfield Land and more details about the Starter Home Land Fund. This could be good news for developers and home-buyers, if new supply helps to curb rising land costs.

Changes in the Buy-to-let sector

The buy-to-let sector was hit in 2016 by the April increase in stamp duty, and in October, the Council for Mortgage Lenders reported that lending to landlords was down 21% year-on-year; prospects are likely to deteriorate further this year.

Further to this, the phased implementation of the Prudential Regulatory Authority’s (PRA’s) affordability stress tests came into force on January 1st 2017 and will restrict the size of loans available for landlords, and, buy-to-let investors will experience an increase in their tax on their rental income from April.

What will this mean for the housing market?

Many anticipate further falls in buy-to-let lending because of the new stress tests. However, many banks were already testing at a high level and it is unlikely we will see a repeat of the steep drop in activity we witnessed in 2016. Nonetheless, a further fall on the demand side from investors could negatively impact on pricing, especially with the surge of new supply planned, albeit the pipeline is still playing catch-up with historic shortfalls.

For existing landlords, rents are likely to increase further as investors try to offset tax increases with a rise in rents. This is within a very competitive lettings marketplace, with high demand for rental properties being chased by an increasing pool of prospective tenants. For renters, this is bad news.

 The rise of build to rent

The build to rent sector has become increasingly popular over recent years and it is likely that it will continue to grow at a fast pace this year.

What will this mean for the housing market?

The demand for rented property has never been higher. Pension funds along with other institutional investors are increasingly finding their feet in this sector of the market, investing in new homes and delivering high-quality rented accommodation. It is anticipated that the white paper will also address some of the complications around route to entry for these investors.

This year, we will likely see new partnerships between local authorities and the institutional market. In 2017, we believe they will look for solutions to make this work and support ‘Generation Rent’ and others priced out of the home-ownership market. This is better news for renters. They will have the option of renting from professional institutions, in accommodation built to a high standard, offering not just a home but a community space with the latest facilities and state-of-the-art technologies.

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