Safe as Houses?

Author: Proposito Team
Published: 25th April 2019
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For many years, rampant house price inflation was a decent earner for many families across the UK. In some cases, people were ‘earning’ more from the rising value of their property than they were earning from employment or self-employment. This situation has dramatically changed in recent years, with the gap between earnings and property price inflation shrinking.

New research by lender Halifax has identified a shifting trend in many parts of the country, where historically people were gaining more from house price inflation than from their take-home pay. But the combination of strong wage growth and weaker property inflation has brought an effective end to this trend.

The research found that house price inflation outstripped post-tax earnings in fewer than one in ten local authority districts in the past two years. This is compared to almost one in five in 2017, and close to a third of areas in 2016.

It has remained possible to earn more from property inflation than employment in a few parts of the country, including Richmond-upon-Thames, which saw the most significant gap between property inflation and wages, at £55,482, or £2,312 a month.

This is equivalent to more than 80% of the average UK house purchase deposit, but less than the London average of £137,638.

The next most significant gap identified in the research was found in Winchester, with a difference of £45,016. Russell Galley, Managing Director, Halifax, said:

“While the slowdown in house price growth may not be welcomed by homeowners, the narrowing gap between prices and wages should improve mortgage affordability for all, meaning that larger house, home extension or even first property are all more attainable.

“Although every region of the UK saw earnings exceed price growth overall, there continues to be significant variations across the country. The majority of areas where house price inflation outpaced owners’ take-home pay are still to be found in London and the South East.”

At a very local level, there are still some parts of the country where property price inflation is a better earner than employment. For example, the recent removal of the tolls on the Prince of Wales Bridge across the Severn into Wales have seen an anecdotal increases in house prices across South East Wales as commuters relocate from Bristol.

But on a broader regional basis, all 12 regions of the UK saw average earnings higher than house price inflation.

This gap was £19,649 in London and £35,250 in Scotland.

When viewed over the past five years, only London claimed house price inflation earning more, with an average gap of £23,817 during that time.

Over the same period, the local authority district with the most significant margin was Three Rivers in East of England, at an average of £88,281.

With slowing house price inflation and strong wage inflation, it seems likely that property will make less of a contribution to increases in wealth in the short to medium term.

The most significant value in homeownership continues to be having a place to live, rather than its potential as an investment asset.