Pete Wargent blogspot

CEO AllenWargent Property Buyers, & WargentAdvisory (institutional). 6 x finance author.

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Tuesday, 19 May 2015

UK feel-good factor to return

UK asking prices plateau in May

Rightmove whacked out its House Price Index for the month of May 2015, which revealed a nugatory 0.1 per cent decline in prices for the period.

Prices may typically be expected to rise in the joyful spring month of May, but through the election lead-up the average asking price for a UK house ticked down very slightly by a couple of hundred quid from £286,133 to £285,891.

The volatile Greater London index recorded a less academic 2.3 per cent drop from £594,585 to £581,074 as the threat of a "mansion tax" loomed (though it has since promptly receded). 

On this evidence average Greater London asking prices appear somewhat peaky, now just 1.5 per cent higher than a year ago.

Asking price gains are now being led by the East of England (up by 6.1 per cent year-on-year) and the South East (up by 3.1 per cent) as price growth ripples outwards from London towards the ever-restrictive green belt.

The same data smoothed below on a 6mMA basis shows how London asking prices have comfortably more than doubled over the past dozen years before stumbling onto their most recent plateau. 

Prices across the rest of the UK are now trending up moderately towards new record highs, after a protracted lull.

Election result

Despite this evidence of a slowdown, anecdotally an unexpectedly conclusive election victory for the incumbent Conservative Party has led to a flurry of activity, with buyers finding confidence and "searching with renewed vigour".

It is widely expected that the conservative ballot should stimulate the prime sector of the market, although a possible Euro referendum still looms as a spectre with spookability potential.

The 2010 UK election result led to a 17 per cent surge in new seller numbers, and it is anticipated that the decisive outcome may much needed breathe fresh life into the market.

Price growth in London over the past decade has been driven primarily by a shortage of suitable stock for sale, now combined with record low interest rates.

Population surge

The population of London is forecast to surge by 1.4 to 10 million by 2036 according to government forecasts, adding to the already chronic housing shortage.

This week Oxford Economics questioned the government figures noting that they fail to take account of the job-creating machine that has been the UK economy of the past two years.

Oxford projects a London population of 11 million by 2030 with the median capital city house price (not asking price) more than doubling to £1 million. 

The strongest performing London boroughs for house prices over the past year have included Tower Hamlets, Hillingdon, Newham and Croydon, with prime central boroughs tracking backwards in the election year-to-date.

With much of the impact of the epic Crossrail project now priced in to the market, the outperforming borough for buy-to-let landlords is set to be Croydon, with some £1 billion of investment for upgrades committed.

Youse lucky readers already knew that though, as it was flagged here nearly 18 months ago.

Stock on market

Back upon Terra Australis it is also a shortage of stock on market which is largely driving Sydney market prices at the present time.

While other fundamentals play a greater role in the longer term "performance" of dwelling prices, in the immediate term the dynamic which shifts prices at the margin is simply the availability of dwelling stock versus the demand for it from willing buyers.

And the primary problem with stock on market in Sydney is plainly this: there ain't none.

While stock listings have declined in Melbourne, Brisbane, Hobart and Canberra over the past 12 months, in Sydney the number of listings for sale has collapsed by 21.4 per cent to just 17,173 according to the latest CoreLogic-RP Data figures.

Quality Sydney stock priced under $1 million is selling remarkably quickly - as indeed one might well expect with the March 2015 mortgage data showing more than $12.5 billion of loans written domestically in New South Wales at the state level, representing an immoderate increase of well over two thirds in only two years. 

Commentators continue to stamp their feet about market fundamentals and affordability, but until we get more listings - or the regulator puts the kibosh on investor lending - prices will keep rising.