House Prices

The UK’s ‘two speed’ housing market is not a novel concept, but new figures highlight the regional and political split like never before.

Use our interactive graphic to explore how geography and politics divide fortunes in Britain’s property market. Read more

Emily Cadman

Are you a wealth accumulator, making good progress or burdened by debt? New research from think-tank the Smith Institute attempts to put a human face on all those distributional graphs of wealth inequality.

The report, published on Wednesday, calculates that property ownership in the UK, having risen dramatically in the last century, has peaked at 67 per cent of households and is likely to fall to 60 per cent by 2025. Read more

Members of the professional middle class in England and Wales have seen a rapid decline in their options when looking for a place to buy a house. The number of electoral wards where the average property price is above the affordability threshold has risen from just 101 (1.1 per cent) in 1995 to 489 (5.7 per cent) in 2012.

Kate Allen

Aberdeen’s economy is booming. The gateway to Britain’s offshore oil and gas reserves, it has long helped to buoy up Scotland’s economy. And now with a wider economic recovery kicking in, it’s acting like Viagra on the area’s house prices.

Property values in Aberdeen and the surrounding area grew faster than anywhere else in the UK in 2013, according to new data produced by estate agents Savills exclusively for the FT.

Aberdeen has even outpaced last year’s hotspot, Elmbridge in Surrey. Read more

Kate Allen

House prices in Britain may be booming once more.

But unlike the bubble of the last decade, this one is very narrowly focused. In fact, it’s really only London that’s seen any growth since the previous national average house price peak in 2008.

Good news for Londoners. But they should put down the champagne: in fact, most of them haven’t benefited that much at all.

Most areas have seen some price growth since 2008. But there are just a handful of stand-out winners. And – yes, even in London – some people have actually seen their house prices fall.

London winners and losers

The clearest winners are the two historic cities: London and Westminster. Yes, prices there really have soared since 2008. The average house price in Westminster topped £1m for the first time last year and is now at £1.3m; up from £746,000 five years earlier.

Perhaps more surprisingly, two rather more down-at-heel boroughs, Southwark and Hackney, are also seeing booming prices. They’ve even managed to push perhaps the most desirable borough of them all, Kensington & Chelsea, into fifth place. Read more

Kate Allen

by Claire Jones and Kate Allen

As today’s FT reports, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ latest poll of their members shows that the industry is very optimistic. They believe that activity in the housing market will rise dramatically in the coming months.

But how confident should we be that the surveyors have got it right? Read more

Kate Allen

The UK’s main house price indices have been diverging noticeably in recent years, as this blog pointed out last week. A look at the trends in housing sales helps explain why.

Here are some useful charts from housing data firm Hometrack. Read more

Kate Allen

An interesting picture of the changing face of the UK housing market is provided by an analysis of census data by estate agency Savills, given exclusively to the FT.

The private rented sector is the main success story – it’s the only part of the market to have increased in value since the recession, and now makes up 17 per cent of the UK’s housing stock by units and 18 per cent by value, Savills found.

UK housing stock by value and tenure

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How much do parents value a safe environment, green spaces and a good education for their children? Such things are priceless – except that, of course, they are not. The best things in life may be free, but buying a house in the vicinity of the best things in life is expensive.

Economic researchers use house prices like a movie jewel-thief uses an aerosol spray. The aerosol isn’t important by itself, but it reveals the otherwise invisible laser beams that will trigger the alarm. The house prices aren’t necessarily of much direct interest, but indirectly they reveal our willingness to pay for anything from a neighbourhood free of known sex offenders to the more familiar example of a popular school. Read more

Kate Allen

The number of housing benefit claimants is rising, and thus so is the cost to the Treasury, data from the Department for Work and Pensions shows. The number of people claiming housing benefit has increased by a startling 780,000 since the beginning of 2009 to 5 million.

There are a couple of small rays of light for the government.

Firstly, the rate of increase in claimants has slowed since the general election in May 2010.

Number of housing benefit claimants Read more

Kate Allen

Buy-to-let properties have bucked the housing market trend in recent years, seeing steady growth in lending.

Partly this is because new finance to owner-occupiers has dropped off so much since the credit crunch: the lack of mortgage availability, particularly for first-time buyers, has fuelled a booming rental market. Demand is pushing up the cost to tenants: average rents are up 4.3% year-on-year.

All this makes buy-to-let an exciting prospect for investors.

lending on buy to let
New buy-to-let lending, £m (source: CML) 

But buy-to-let mortgages are looking increasingly risky, according to detailed new data from the Council of Mortgage Lenders. Read more

Chris Cook

There’s an interesting development in Croydon, my scenic home town. The south London borough is fully comprehensive: it has no academically selective state schools (“grammar schools“). Since 1998, it has also been forbidden for new grammars to be opened anywhere in the country, except as replacements for closing ones. But Croydon council has an interesting idea.

Tim Pollard, the councillor in charge of schools, has written about a new school site that the borough is opening. The council want an existing school to run the site, in Norwood, as an annex. If the “parent” school were a grammar, the new half-a-school could be too.

…we took the decision yesterday to open up the competition to run this school to all types of secondary school, not just community-style comprehensive schools. The criteria the new provider needs to meet are that it should be a Good or Outstanding school in its OFSTED rating, that it should have well above average GCSE and A-level results and that it must be able to demonstrate that it can apply its admissions criteria appropriately and be in a position to receive funding from the Government as it expands.

So does that mean it could be a Grammar School? Yes, it could.

In Croydon we converted our last grammar schools into comprehensives many decades ago, in line with what was then government thinking. Our neighbours in Sutton, Bromley and Kent, on the other hand, resisted the intense pressure then put on education authorities to follow suit and kept their selective schools. Those schools, including Wallington Boys & Girls, Wilsons and Newstead Woods, are now amongst the most popular choices for Croydon parents who seek the best standard of education for their children. They are heavily oversubscribed, with many more children passing the exams than can possibly be accommodated.

It will be worth watching this unfold. “Satellite” schools and “annex” sites may be a loophole for establishing new grammar schools. Kent council, which is fully selective, will open a grammar school annex in Sevenoaks. But selection is firmly embedded there.

A Croydon grammar annex would be a bigger step – it would both mean a grammar crossing a borough border and introducing selectivity into a new area. This is all early on, but if Croydon gets this through, it could open up grammars once again as a national issue.

Here is why.

  Read more