UK December house prices suffer fourth monthly drop

House prices in Britain fell, cutting 2022 growth in half

Houses in Dover, Kent. The average UK house price fell for the fourth month in a row in December, according to the Halifax. PA
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UK house prices declined for the fourth consecutive month in December, down 1.5 per cent compared to the previous month, according to the latest House Price Index from the Halifax.

The annual rate of growth in December slowed to 2 per cent, compared to 4.6 per cent in the same month in 2021.

The typical house in the UK cost £281,272 ($336,936) in December, down from £285,425 in November, according to the Halifax.

Nonetheless, the cost of the average house remains historically high. It is more than it was at the beginning of last year and 11 per cent higher than at the start of 2021. Between January and August last year, the cost of the average home in the UK rose by over £17,000 (6 per cent) to £293,992, setting a record high.

“As we enter 2023, the housing market will continue to be impacted by the wider economic environment and, as buyers and sellers remain cautious, we expect there will be a reduction in both supply and demand overall, with house prices forecast to fall around 8 per cent over the course of the year. It’s important to recognise that a drop of 8 per cent would mean the cost of the average property returning to April 2021 prices, which still remains significantly above pre-pandemic levels,” said Kim Kinnaird, director at Halifax Mortgages.

Slowing growth

All the regions of the UK saw annual house price increases, although rates of growth have slowed.

On an annual basis, the North-East saw the biggest slowdown in house price growth, with annual house prices rising by 6.5 per cent in December, compared with 10.5 per cent the previous month.

Eastern England, the West Midlands and Wales experienced the smallest falls in growth rate.

The cost of an average home in London in December was £541,239, up 2.9 per cent on the year, compared to 5 per cent in November.

“The housing market was a mixed picture in 2022. We saw rapid house price growth during the first six months, followed by a plateau in the summer before prices began to fall from September, as the impact of cost of living pressures, coupled with a rising [interest] rates environment, began to take effect on household finances and demand,” Ms Kinnaird said.

The Halifax House Price Index was established 40 years ago in January 1983. Back then, the average UK house price was £26,188 and the interest rate was 11 per cent. Since then, house prices have grown 974 per cent to £281,272 and the interest rate is now 3.5 per cent.

London was the most expensive place to buy a home in early 1983, as it remains today. Properties in the capital cost an average £36,056 in the first three months of 1983, compared with £541,239 today.

Properties for sale in London, Britain. EPA / ANDY RAIN

Fall-through rates

Meanwhile, separate research from the property company Quick Move Now, showed that more than a third (35.3 per cent) of property sales fell through last year.

Of the house sales that fell through last year, 37.3 per cent were caused by the buyer changing their mind and pulling out. A further 23.7 per cent of sales collapsed because the buyer was unable to secure a mortgage, or experienced a change in circumstances that meant they were no longer able to commit to the purchase.

Failing sales rates were high in October and November (41.2 per cent and 52.6 per cent respectively) as the cost of living started to bite and interest rates began to rise significantly. However, by December the “fall-through rate” had dropped to 17.6 per cent as transaction volumes plunged, leaving only the extremely committed and financially-able buyers in the market.

Danny Luke, managing director at Quick Move Now, said: “Over the next 12 months, sale numbers are expected to continue to be comparatively low, but I’m confident that the market will settle into a new ‘normal’ rather than grinding to a halt. There are still those with a strong need to move and a shortage of properties coming to the market. Prices and volumes may be lower, but the market is resilient.”

Updated: January 06, 2023, 9:23 AM