Will House Prices Double In 2024?
The UK housing market has seen considerable growth over the past few decades, with house prices more than doubling in some areas since the early 2000s. As we enter 2024, many are wondering if this rapid growth will continue and if house prices across the UK could double again this year.
There are arguments on both sides of this debate. On the one hand, factors like high demand, low supply, low-interest rates, government policies, and investment buying have driven strong house price growth recently and could plausibly fuel another jump this year. However, headwinds like inflation, rising interest rates, economic uncertainty, and affordability issues could put downward pressure on prices.
This article will analyse the key factors that could drive UK house prices higher or lower in 2024. It will consider the bullish arguments for prices doubling, as well as the bearish factors that could lead to slower growth or even price declines. By weighing up the evidence on both sides, we will assess the likelihood that house prices across the UK could realistically double in 2024.
Bullish Factors Supporting House Price Growth
While very rapid, across-the-board house price growth is unlikely, some solid fundamental and cyclical factors could feasibly push prices significantly higher in 2024:
Limited Supply and High Demand Imbalance
There is a severe imbalance between UK housing supply and demand. Housebuilding has lagged behind household formation for decades, driving up prices through scarcity. Housebuilding has consistently fallen short of the needed new homes targets. As long as demand growth continues to outpace new supply additions, this scarcity puts upward pressure on house prices.
Migration Trends and Demographic Factors
The UK population continues to grow steadily, largely driven by immigration and a relatively high birth rate. A rising population increases the need for housing. At the same time, there are demographic factors like more young adults forming households, more divorces requiring extra accommodation, and increased life expectancies necessitating larger homes suitable for retirement. These demographic shifts continue to drive structural demand for housing.
Strong Investor and Buy-to-Let Market
The private rented sector has ballooned in recent decades. Investors – both large-scale institutional investors and amateur buy-to-let landlords – are hungry for rental properties to buy. Build-to-rent could account for up to 30 per cent of new housing supply by some estimates. This high investment demand puts additional upward pressure on purchase prices.
Low-Interest Rates and Mortgage Availability
Despite some recent rate rises, interest rates remain relatively low by historical standards. This keeps mortgage payments affordable and accessible for buyers, supporting higher prices. Banks also continue to lend at surprisingly high loan-to-value and loan-to-income ratios. Plentiful credit availability allows buyers to stretch themselves further to buy. This extra purchasing power again filters through into higher prices.
Government Policies and Incentives
Government schemes like Help-to-Buy and Right-to-Buy along with various developer incentives have made purchasing more accessible for many buyers in recent years. Various government policies attempt to stimulate buyer demand. While the full impact is debated, these interventions likely provide some lift to prices.
International and Institutional Capital
Large global institutions continue investing heavily in UK residential property, while wealthy foreign investors view UK property as an attractive asset class. London, in particular, is a global hotspot for international capital looking for safe havens. This source of nearly limitless buy-side capital can buoy prices.
Momentum and Emotions
Sentiment and emotions should not be underestimated in property markets. When prices rise rapidly for a sustained period, buyer psychology can drive a self-fulfilling bubble mentality. Fear of missing out causes many buyers to enter the market or upgrade to avoid being priced out by future growth. If this bullish psychology builds, it can push prices higher still.
Bearish Factors That Could Slow or Reverse Price Growth
On the other hand, the UK property market faces an array of threats that could potentially not just slow house price growth but even cause prices to decline in the coming year:
Rising Mortgage Rates
To tame rampant inflation, the Bank of England has embarked on monetary tightening through a series of interest rate hikes. Higher policy rates feed through into higher mortgage rates. This erodes affordability – especially for highly leveraged buyers. As mortgage rates rise further, it will price more buyers out of the market.
UK house price growth has vastly outpaced income growth over the past 30 years. This means the property has become increasingly unaffordable, especially for first-time buyers. With house prices already overstretched relative to incomes, rapid further growth looks unsustainable without a real income boom.
Economic Headwinds and Recession Risk
With the UK economy slowing, consumer confidence falling and a potential recession looming, risks are tilted to the downside for house prices. Buyers become nervous during periods of economic uncertainty. Struggling businesses, job losses and falling incomes also negatively impact the housing market. A recession or prolonged economic slump would likely drag down prices.
Cost of Living Crisis
Surging inflation and a painful cost of living crisis is straining household budgets, leaving potential buyers with less discretionary income to afford expensive properties. As buyers feel the pinch from higher costs, some may delay or pull out of planned purchases. First-time buyers, in particular, are impacted.
Tax Changes on Buy-to-Let Investment
Tax burdens on buy-to-let investment have increased substantially in recent years, including stamp duty surcharges and changes to mortgage interest deductibility. This may dampen investor demand and limit a key historical driver of price growth.
Wider geopolitical uncertainty – including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and trade wars between global superpowers – could damage economic stability. This breeds financial volatility and falling consumer sentiment. Until these tensions ease, downside risks remain elevated in most asset markets.
Slowing Global Growth
Property markets never exist in isolation – they are influenced by global economic trends. With rising fears of global recession or an emerging markets crisis, contagion could spread to the UK. As the world economy slows in 2023-2024, it seems unlikely major property markets can continue surging upwards.
In conclusion, while very rapid short-term house price growth is possible in individual markets, it seems improbable prices across the whole of the UK will double in 2024 alone. The bullish factors supporting the market are outweighed by the building storm clouds on the horizon.
A temporary bounce fueled by momentum or government policy cannot be ruled out. But with rising rates, recession risk, inflationary pressures and geopolitical tensions all simmering, house prices are more likely to face a bumpy landing after a long bull run.
Rather than accelerating, annual UK house price inflation will probably continue slowing. Price drops are possible, especially in real terms after adjusting for inflation. While specific regional markets or property types may defy gravity for a while thanks to idiosyncratic demand drivers, gravity cannot be defied nationwide for long.
Overall, while further growth is still foreseeable given embedded supply shortages, a doubling of average prices across the whole UK in one year alone appears far-fetched. After such stretched valuations already, the headwinds are accumulating that could bring this long property boom cycle to an end sooner rather than later.