Mortgage scheme spurs home prices

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 November, 2013, 10:41am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 November, 2013, 2:04am

New British government incentives to support the housing market boosted the number of people wanting to buy homes last month and helped push prices to an 11-year high, a survey showed yesterday.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' seasonally adjusted house price balance hit 57, its highest level since June 2002 and up from a revised 53 in September, as demand outstripped the number of properties on the market.

Some economists have warned that measures to boost mortgage lending risk creating a bubble in the housing market.

Simon Rubinsohn, the institution's chief economist, said banks were willing to provide homebuyers with bigger loans, thanks to the latest phase of the Help to Buy programme under which the government guarantees up to 15 per cent of many mortgages.

"Despite this, the amount of homes currently up for sale is still nowhere near enough to keep up with demand and - in order for the market to function correctly - this imbalance urgently needs to be addressed," he said.

In September, RICS called on the Bank of England to limit the rise in house prices to no more than 5 per cent a year.

In a sign of growing tightness in the housing market, the ratio of sales to stocks of properties hit its highest level since the financial crisis, the institution said.

The survey showed expectations for price rises over the next 12 months picked up to 3 per cent, rising to 4.5 per cent a year for the following five years.

The average number of homes sold per chartered surveyor in the three months to October hit 20.3, still historically low but the highest number since February 2008.

British Finance Minister George Osborne has played down suggestions that the housing market risked overheating but has asked the Bank of England to give annual recommendations on the impact of the Help to Buy programme from September next year.

Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday that more than 2,000 homebuyers obtained mortgages through the scheme in the first month since the government guarantee was introduced, with most of them first-time buyers. That compared with nearly 67,000 mortgages approved in the country in September.

The launch of Help to Buy has diminished the number of people wanting to rent a property. Interest from potential tenants fell to its lowest reading in more than 10 years last month, the RICS survey showed.