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Prime London House Prices Are Plunging And The UK Could Follow

The prime central London property market has been one of the hottest investments of the past five years, but now there are signs that buyer interest is melting away.

Land Registry figures show that prime central London house prices fell a hefty 11.9% in the second quarter of this year, compared to the first three months.

Transactions in prime central London fell 28% to 5,174 for the year, the lowest figure since 2009. 

Capital Crunch

This isn’t isn’t the only data pointing towards trouble. New figures from property firm LSL show London sales in June down 13% year-on-year, with prime hotspots once again the worst afflicted. In the most expensive boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster, year-on-year sales are down 33% and 31% respectively.

The slowdown isn’t confined to crazy runaway prime central London. Price growth is slowing across the capital, up a feeble 1.8% over the last year, LSL says. Out of 10 regions in England and Wales, only the North and Wales are growing at a slower pace.

End Of The Foreign Affair

Few ordinary Londoners will be surprised by this. Most were priced out of the market long ago. Those lucky enough to get on the capital’s housing ladder before prices went stratospheric are wondering whether to pocket their profits and seek peace in Birmingham.

London has been hit disproportionately hard by Chancellor George Osborne’s new stamp duty regime, which hiked transaction costs on more expensive properties. The rise of sterling against the euro and other currencies has also deterred foreign buyers, many of whom are now seeking cheaper safe havens for their dodgy money. The ruble collapse has hit Russian buying power.

Even the Conservative general election victory in May, which sunk the proposed mansion tax, has failed to turn sentiment around.

Given today’s sky-high prices, domestic demand can’t plug the gap. Some are even claiming the unthinkable, that London is now a buyer’s market.

Trouble Ahead

London once spearheaded UK property growth, but for now it has run out of poke. The rest of the UK continues to push on, growing 4.4% over the past year, but it too faces challenges.

First-time buyers are disappearing, their numbers down 27% in the year to July, according to e.surv. Chancellor George Osborne’s recent crackdown on higher rate tax relief for buy-to-let could squeeze another source of demand, from amateur landlords. And of course interest rates are set to rise at some point, pushing up mortgage costs for overstretched borrowers.

Property is more unaffordable than it has ever been. The average home in England and Wales costs 8.8 times local earnings, higher even than in 2007, immediately before the financial crisis. The long-term average is just five times earnings.

Where London leads, the rest of the UK looks set to follow. Prices dropped 0.1% in July, according to Halifax, and although activity appears to have picked up in August, the market is on a knife edge.

Now isn’t the time to pour your funds into property. In fact, it could be the worst time of all.

There are far safer ways to make big money in 2015 than gambling on an overheated property market.

The average UK property now costs nearly £200,000 but you can start investing in stocks and shares with a fraction of that sum.

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