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Crystal Balls 2016: Property market forecasts from the key residential research units

As another new year looms large, the residential industry’s leading pundits and analysts are unanimous about one thing: the property market is fragmenting, with micro-markets emerging in various locations...

As another new year looms large, the residential industry’s leading pundits and analysts are unanimous about one thing: the property market is fragmenting, with micro-markets emerging in various locations and within specific value bands. Generalisations about national – or even about central London – price growth are increasingly valueless as pockets of performance react to more local influences and supply/demand trends. That being said, educated general forecasts are still quite interesting… And there are lots here, complemented by more qualitiative and specific thoughts from some of the luxury property industry’s most informed individuals.

Find out what some of the prime resi industry’s most informed and influential individuals think will come to pass in 2016 here.

While the General Election carved 2015 into two neat(ish) chunks, fallout from a complete overhaul of the stamp duty system at the end of 2014 carried on throughout the year at the top-end of the property market, crushing transaction numbers and chilling prime central London’s fiery pace of price growth.

Squaring_the_circle

An arithmancer from Atalanta Fugiens (1618), by Michael Maier

Despite this, there has been a lot of talk of a London price bubble in recent months, with an apparent ‘Crash Vs Catch-up’ schism forming between more academic macro-economists and more boots-on-the-ground analysts and pundits about how the market will react to record-high prices. Some vocal members of the former group – notably UBS, Deutsche Bank and the UK Housing Observatory – have argued that a property crash is ‘imminent’. The latter group, which includes most prime London estate agents (predictably), tends to believe that any correction will come through other regions – which have trailed London’s performance in recent years – catching up, rather than prices in the capital falling. Full reports from UBS and Deutsche Bank are available on PrimeResi.com here and here, and will be published in the forthcoming Winter Journal (due out in early January), while Maskell’s Charles Curran delivers a measured and compelling reply to UBS’ bubble claims here.

2016 is expected to be, relatively speaking, a pretty quiet year, with London’s Khan/Goldsmith Mayoral election in May the only scheduled potentially seismic political event. Which isn’t, of course, to say that there are no more red flags on the course. Interest rates must surely rise soon, while the shape of the global economy is shifting around China’s rocky path, and 2017’s likely EU referundum will – at best – deliver deal-numbing uncertainty for many investors.

  • This special Forecasts section is kindly supported by Maskells, residential agents in the Royal Borough since 1965

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This time last year, the UK’s top resi research houses were peering into some pretty mixed-up tea leaves, with a General Election slicing 2015 into two halves and littering forecasts with caveats.

As the dust settles, the general consensus for the UK’s mainstream market involves moderate price growth underpinned by short supply, although 2016 looks like a fallow one for prime central London.

N.B. Definitions, time periods and geographical zones vary between research units; comparisons made here are more indicative than absolute…

2016 Forecasts

Prime Central London

Savills

±0%

JLL

+1%

Knight Frank

+2%

Hamptons International

+3.5%

Cluttons

+5%

Greater London

Hamptons International

+4.1%

Knight Frank

+5%

JLL

+5.5%

BNP Paribas

+7.5%

Savills

+8%

UK Mainstream

Capital Economics

+2%

Carter Jonas

+3.4%

CEBR

+3.5%

Halifax

+4%

Knight Frank

+4.1%

RICS

+6%

Hamptons International

+4.5%

Savills

+5%

JLL

+5%

Strutt & Parker

+5%

Rightmove (asking prices)

+6%

BNP Paribas

+7.3%

 

5-Year Forecasts

Prime Central London

JLL

+17%

Knight Frank

+20.5%

Savills

+21.5%

Greater London

Savills

+15.3%

Knight Frank

+19.3%

Strutt & Parker

+19.8%

JLL

+24%

BNP Paribas

+33%

UK Mainstream

Savills

+17%

Knight Frank

+20.3%

JLL

+22.8%

RICS

+25%

BNP Paribas

+33.1%

Office of Budget Responsibility

+34.1%

Find out what some of the prime resi industry’s most informed and influential individuals think will come to pass in 2016 here.

Knight Frank is predicting that UK house prices will grow by 20.3% over the next five years, with prime central London bouncing back after a slow 2016 to deliver +20.5% by 2020’s end but the wider London market slightly under-performing. The top-end of the market will continue to be steered by higher transaction costs in the coming year, as both London and prime country markets absorb stamp duty, while short-supply in the mainstream “will likely continue to put a floor under pricing in 2016”.

It looks like the disparity between prices in the North and South of the country will continue to deepen. Other key factors at play next year will include:

  • The timing and magnitude of an inevitable interest rate rise;
  • The ongoing health/performance of the global economy;
  • London’s Mayoral election;
  • The burgeoning wealth ripple out of London to the country;
  • The likelihood of an EU referndum in 2017.

The future looks pretty bright for property prices – as long as you’re not banking on central London performance – said Savills in its big round of forecasts. Prime central London and “existing wealth belts” are in for “a couple of years of very low growth” – none at all in 2016 – before coming back out to play in time for five-year forecasts to look quite perky at +21.5% by 2020’s end. Prime suburbs and “inner commute” zones are all geared up to be the star performers over the next half-decade, said the firm, with +24.5% and +24% respectively out-rising every other market as these areas play catch-up to PCL’s recent runaway behaviour.

2016, however, is all about mainstream markets. These are due to significantly outgun the top-end, led by the South Eastern and Eastern regions at +7% and +6.5% respectively – although the pace of growth will largely be dictated by what happens to interest rates. Savills put in a +15.3% rise across London by the end of 2020, but was at pains to point out that “overall averages disguise significant differences between submarkets across the capital”. Walthamstow and Lewisham, for example, are likely to show the strongest growth (+20%), while price growth in more expensive boroughs such as Hammersmith & Fulham and Richmond will probably languish at half that rate (there’s more on this in the next feature).

A strong and stable domestic economy will underpin the UK housing market over the next five years, said JLL, while London looks set to come under increasing pressure. The high value markets of PCL face an “uneasy and vulnerable” short-term outlook, before things start picking up again – for a bit – in 2018/19. The firm is predicting national house price growth of between 3-5% a year between now and 2020, which is pretty much the same as what’s being forecast for Greater London. It’s a different picture for prime central London, however, where the heavy burden of stamp duty rates have dramatically affected transaction levels. The short-term outlook here is described as “particularly sensitive” and sluggish growth of just 1% is on the cards for next year (outer London locations are expected to significantly outperform this). There are bumps ahead in the road for the capital in the shape of the Mayoral elections in 2016 and the EU Referendum in 2017, although 2018 could well turn out to be the sweet spot before uncertainty creeps back in again in time for the 2020 General Election year.

Strutt & Parker sees the East of England and the South East continuing to power along over the next five years, with growth of 22.8% and 22.7% forecast respectively between 2015 and 2019 (inclusive). Greater London looks set for a rally with 19.8%, just ahead of Scotland (18.5%) and the South West (16.5%). Despite a “distinct slowdown” in transaction volumes, the firm is slightly more upbeat about PCL’s form than other firms.

Hamptons International sees an improving economic backdrop and an ongoing shortage of stock providing decent foundations for further growth, with affordability constraints and moderating price expectations keeping a lid on things for the foreseeable. After a 2015 that exceeded its expectations, the firm expects growth to remain positive in London, but driven by outer areas rather than PCL. The capital is likely to be outgunned by the regions; the East, South West, North West & South East are all in line for 5% next year, whereas PCL looks set for 3.5%.

A continuing lack of stock is the “key driver” of the UK property market, argues the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors as it predicts a 6% increase for UK house prices in 2016, with a cumulative increase of around 25% over five years. There has been a clear – and dramatic – fall in the number of properties available on estate agents books, and over half of the RICS’ surveyors identified short supply as the big issue with today’s market. Explaining the trend is, however, a little more tricky than identifying it… A rather Ouroborian theory – supported by 40% of surveyors – is that a lack of stock is causing the lack of stock: vendors are being discouraged from putting their property on etc market as there is “nothing to buy” at the other end… Economic uncertainty and unaffordability also come in as strong contenders to at least partially explain why more homeowners are staying put. The RICS also flags up a theory – only marginally supported by survey results – that the collapse of the development pipeline following the global economic meltdown has had a serious impact on the quantity of available property.

With limited supply comes the inevitable upward pressure on prices, which is what has prompted a punchy +6% prediction of house price inflation by 2016’s end. New buyer enquiries are on the up, and “it would not be unreasonable to expect house price inflation to begin to accelerate once again over the coming months (possibly reaching double digit gains briefly) before slowing in the second half of 2016.”

Winkworth expects stamp duty to continue to undermine demand for more expensive properties, while low mortgage rates and wage inflation add momentum at the lower end of the market. The added tax burden is expected to be “progressively absorbed” in central London over the course of 2016 – albeit with fewer transactions – with the changes having “little impact from 2017 onwards”. Domestic interest is expected to prevail here, while overseas buyers face ever-increasing headwinds in the form of changes to non-dom status and CGT. Flats under £2m are tipped to see the greatest demand, with prices expected to grow by 2% compared to 0% for both flats and houses in the £2m+ range. Meanwhile, Greater London should see price increases moving into 2016, especially below £1m; growth of around 6% is being forecast for flats, compared to a steady 3% for houses. Price growth of around 5% is predicted for the country market in 2016 as buyers resume their interest in taking advantage of the record price gap with London.

Marsh & Parsons agrees that stamp duty will continue to have an effect on the top of the market, causing any return to growth in 2016 to be “lacklustre”. The firm is predicting a 3% price rise across prime London, with fringe areas such as Queen’s Park and Tooting managing up to 5%.

After recording a 7.4% increase in asking prices over 2015, Rightmove reckons “upwards price pressure” will cause a few records to be broken next year. New seller asking prices are predicted to rise by 6% in 2016.

Cluttons sees a 22% increase in UK prices between 2015 and 2020 (assuming no major fall-out from 2017’s EU referendum), including an uplift of 5% in 2016.

“House prices will keep rising and building more won’t be enough,” warned economic forecaster the Centre for Economics and Business Research as it bumped up its 2015 forecast from 4.7% in June to 5.6% in October, and predicted a further rise of 3.5% in 2016.

Other predictions for the UK mainstream market in 2016 included a 4% from Halifax, a 3.4% from Carter Jonas and a 2% from Capital Economics.

N.B. Definitions, time periods and geographical zones vary between research units; comparisons made here are more indicative than absolute…

More qualitative predictions from PrimeResi’s pundits are here.

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