I was having a lazy Saturday morning, reading through the newspapers at my favourite coffee shop in Coventry. I find the most interesting bits are their commentaries on the British Housing Market. Some talk about property prices, whilst others discuss the younger generation grappling to get a foot-hold on the property ladder with difficulties of saving up for the deposit. and Oothers feature articles about the severe lack of new homes being built (which is especially true in Coventry!). A However, a group of people that don’t often get any column inches however are those existing homeowners who can’t move!
Back in the early 2000’s, between 1m and 1.3m people moved each year in England and Wales, peaking at 1,349,306 home-moves (i.e. house sales) in 2002. However, the ‘credit crunch’ hit in 2008 and the number of house sales fell to 624,994 in 2009. Since then, although this has steadily recovered, since then, albeit to a more ‘respectable’ 899,708 properties by 2016. This means there are around 450,000 fewer house sales (house-moves) each year compared to the noughties … but the question is … why are there fewer house sales?
To answer that, we needhave to go back 40/50 years. Inflation was high in the late 1960’s, 70’s and early 80’s. To combat thisat, the Government raisedset interest rates to a high level in a bid high to try to lower inflation. Higher interest rates meant the householders monthly mortgage payments were higher, meaning mortgages took a large proportion of the homeowner’s household budget. However, thisat wasn’t all bad news sinceas the high inflation tends to eroded the mortgage debt in ‘real spending power terms’. Consequently, as wages grew (to keep up with inflation), this allowed home ownersthem to get even biggeran even higher mortgages. At the same time (whilst their mortgage debt was decreasing, ) and therefore allowing them to move up the property ladder quicker.
Roll the clock on to the late 1990’s and the early Noughties, and things had changed. UK interest rates tumbled as UK inflation dropped. Lower interest rates and low inflation, especially in the five years 2000 to 2005, meant we saw double digit growth in the value of UK property. This inevitably meant all the home owner’s equity grew significantly exponentially, meaning people could continue to move up the property ladder (even without the effects of inflation).
This snowball effect (of significant numbers everyone moving house) continued into the mid noughties (2004 to 2007), as Banks and Building Society’s slackened their lending criteria. [You (who will probably can remember the 125% loan to value Northern Rock Mortgages that could be obtained with just a note from your Mum!!]. This mean home movers could borrow even more to move up the property ladder.
So, now it’s 2017 and things have changed yet again!
You would think that with ultra-low interest rates at 0.25% (a 320-year low) (a 320+ year all time low), the the number of people moving would be booming – wouldn’t you ? However, this has not been the case. Less people are moving because:
(1) low wage growth of 1.1% per annum,
(2) the tougher mortgage rules since 2014
(3) sporadic property price growth in the last few years
(4) high property values comparative to salaries (I talked about this a couple of months ago)
What does this translate to in pure numbers locally?, all these four points have come together to mean less people are moving … but by how many?
In 2007, 6,588 properties sold in the Coventry City Council area and last year, in 2016 only 4,775 properties sold – a drop of 27.52%.
Therefore, we have just over 1,810 less households moving in the Coventry and surrounding Council area each year. Now of that number, it is recognised throughout the property industry around fourth fifths of them are homeowners with a mortgage. That means there are around 1,487 mortgaged households a year (fourth fifths of the figure of 1,810) in the Coventry and surrounding council area that would have moved 10 years ago, but won’t this year.
The reason they can’t/won’t move can be split down into different categories, explained in abased on a recent report by the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML). So, of those estimated 1,487 annual Coventry (and surrounding area) non-movers, based on that CML report –
1. There are around 535 households a year that aren’t moving due to a fall in the number of mortgaged owner occupiers (i.e. demographics).
2. I then estimate another 208 households a year are of the older generation mortgaged owner occupiers. As they are increasingly getting older, older people don’t tend to move, regardless of what is happening to the property market (i.e. lifestyle).
3. Then, I estimate 89 households of our Coventry (and surrounding area) annual non-movers will mirror the rising number of high equity owner occupiers, who previously would have moved with a mortgage but now move as cash buyers (i.e. high house price growth).
4. Finally, and the majority of people that would have moved (but can’t). I believe there are 654 Coventry (and surrounding area) mortgaged homeowners that are unable to move because of the financing of the new mortgage orkeeping within the new rules of mortgage affordability that came into play in 2014 (i.e. mortgage).
Undoubtedly, whilst the first three points above (demographics, lifestyle and high price growth) there is something beyond the Government or Bank of England control. However could there be some influence exerted to help, it is the fourth point where something could be done , as it is the people and households in that final 4th point (the non-movers because of financing the new mortgage and keeping within the new rules of mortgage affordability?) that if Coventry property values were lower, this would decrease the size of each step up the property ladder. This would mean the opportunity cost of increasing their mortgage would reduce (i.e.opportunity cost = the step up in their mortgage payments between their existing and future new mortgage) and they would be able to move to more upmarket properties.
And then there is the mortgage rules, but before we all start demanding a relaxation in lending criteria for the banks, do we want to return to free and easy mortgages 125% Northern Rock footloose and fancy-free mortgage lending that seemed to be available in the mid 2000’s … available at a drop of hat and three tokens from a cereal packet?
We all know what happened with Northern Rock …. Your thoughts would be welcome on this topic.
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