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Welsh house prices rise £3,500 as market soldiers on

“Given how difficult it is to get a mortgage at the moment, an annual rise in prices of 2.4% is a real victory for the housing market. Lower house prices in Wales have made it comparatively easier for first time buyers to get on the housing ladder than in England.

Predominantly, though, it is wealthier buyers and equity-rich retirees who are sustaining sales-levels, which has helped nudge up prices. It’s created a two tier market where prices tend to vary regionally depending on the number of wealthier buyers. Prices have held up well, and even seen significant increases, in areas with plenty of wealthier buyers, but have fallen in areas with more first time buyers. The main stumbling block to a fluid housing market is a chronic lack of mortgage finance. It is marooning first time buyers in the rental market, which keeps sales levels suppressed and stops house prices growing.

To put things in perspective, sales levels are still only half what they were in 2006. Lending criteria is becoming tighter, with banks more concerned about protecting their balance sheets, and they are reducing lending to buyers with small deposits, which will hit first time buyers disproportionately hard. The best the market can for over the next few months is to stagger on.  On average, banks require deposits to be twice as large as they were before the 2008 financial crisis. They are terrified by the precarious situation in the EU, and won’t have the confidence to resume lending in significant volumes until the crisis is resolved.

Wales is also more exposed to public sector austerity than the UK as a whole. Banks will be reluctant to lend in enclaves where the public sector accounts for the bulk of jobs, which could lead to local disparities in sales volumes. Houses prices at a local level will be closely tied to the performance of their immediate economies. With unemployment set to rise further, house price growth could prove elusive.”

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