Now that some of the dust has settled from the result of the General Election, the local market has become somewhat subdued and I expect that the ferocious rise in house prices we have seen over the past 2-3 years will stabilise of the next 12 months. We have seen the share price of these large house builders drop significantly since June 8th, though it’s this supply and demand imbalance that brings me on to what I see unfolding as a long term trend in the Hampstead property market.
During my school years, my parents seemed to move every other year (or it seemed that way). In reality, looking back at the house moves, we actually moved three times before I left home. However, despite my parents keeping the removal van people in business whilst I was at school, from research I have carried out it shows things have changed considerably in Hampstead over the last few decades, and interestingly, the trend is getting worse … for the removal van people at any rate!
In Hampstead, there are 13,338 properties. However, after we remove the 1,046 council houses, 3,751 privately rented houses and 259 houses where the occupants live rent free, that leaves us with 8,282 owned properties (be that 100% outright, with a mortgage or shared ownership). This means 62% of the properties in Hampstead are occupied by the owner (the national average is interestingly 64.2%) but the number of people who have sold and moved house in Hampstead, over the last 12 months, has only been 434, compared to last year where the figure stood at 557. This means on these figures, the homeowners of Hampstead are only moving on average every 18.2 years.
These are the reasons; Firstly, the cost of moving house has risen over the last twenty years with Stamp Duty revisions being a significant factor. Secondly, with many remortgaging their properties in the mid 2000’s before the price crash of 2008, there is a reluctance or inability in a small minority of homeowners to finance a home sale/purchase, due to lack of equity. Thirdly, the falling supply means less choice, leaving many homeowners looking for ways to improve instead of move. These are the three factors driving fewer moves by existing homeowners.
However, the big effect has been the change in house price inflation. Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, house prices were doubling every 5 to 7 years. Even in Greater London, with its stratospheric property price increases over the last few years, it has taken 15 years (August 2002 to be exact) for property values to double to today’s levels.
This change to a relatively low inflation Hampstead property market (i.e. Hampstead property values not rising quickly) is significant because the long term consequences of sustained low house price growth is that it eats into mortgage debt more slowly than when property price inflation is higher. Hampstead homeowners cannot rely on inflation to shrink their debt in real terms as much as they did in say the 1970’s and 1980’s.
So what does this all mean for Hampstead buy to let landlords? Well for the same reasons existing Hampstead homeowners aren’t moving, less ‘twenty something’s’ are buying their first home as well. The younger generation may aspire to own their own home, but without the social pressure from their peers and parents to buy their first property as soon people reach their early 20’s, the memory of the 2008 housing crisis and the belief the hard times either aren’t over or the worst is yet to come, current and would-be homeowners are warming to the idea of renting. I also believe UK society has changed, with the youngster’s wanting prosperity and happiness; but wanting it all now… instantly… today… without the sacrifice, work and patience that these things take. As a society, we expect things instantly, and if it doesn’t come easy, doesn’t come quick, some youngsters ask if it is really worth the effort to save for the deposit. Why go without holidays, the newest iPhone, socialising four times a week and the fancy satellite package for a couple of years. To save for that 5% deposit seems like a tall order if there is no longer a social stigma in renting or pressure to buy as there was… say… a generation ago? Interestingly, most tenants couldn’t afford to buy the property they rent. The notion of renting has become important to the UK housing market as it has helped to create a mobile workforce that is vital for fuller employment and economic growth.
Even though, in real terms, property prices are 5% cheaper than they were ten years ago (when adjusted by inflation), 28% of Hampstead properties are privately rented (nearly double what it was twenty years ago). As a result, we are seeing a trend that requires a range of different tenures for the local market, especially when the population of Hampstead is set to increase 10% by 2028. For the long term, therefore, my prediction is that demand for rental properties will continue to grow from tenants, meaning those wishing to invest in the buy to let market, might be on to a good thing.