Business

UK house prices in first quarterly fall since 2012

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UK house prices are "stagnating" and have actually fallen in the last three months, according to the Halifax.

In the three months to April, prices fell by 0.2% - the first quarterly fall since November 2012.

Over the past month alone, prices fell by 0.1%, the Halifax said.

However, for the year to April, prices rose by 3.8%, the same figure as in March. It leaves the average cost of a house or flat at £219,649.

Martin Ellis, Halifax housing economist, said one reason why prices were slowing was that property had become too expensive for many people.

"Housing demand appears to have been curbed in recent months due to the deterioration in housing affordability caused by a sustained period of rapid house price growth during 2014-16," he said.

Last week rival lender Nationwide said house prices were growing at 2.6% annually - their lowest rate for four years.

The Bank of England has also said that the number of mortgages being approved has fallen for two months running.

Supply shortage

Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomics said the Halifax figures were further evidence that the squeeze on real wages was offsetting the boost to house prices from falling mortgage rates.

"House prices likely will continue to be underpinned by a shortage of supply, due to the high moving costs faced by existing homeowners. In addition, competition among lenders will continue to drive down mortgage rates this year, boosting the size of loans that some households can afford," he said.

However, the Bank of England's loan-to-income ratio rule introduced in 2014 would prevent leverage rising significantly further, the economist added.

Under the rule, banks and building societies cannot lend more than 15% of their mortgages to riskier borrowers. They, in turn, are defined as people borrowing more than 4.5 times their annual income.

That view was echoed by Howard Archer at IHS Markit: "We suspect markedly weakening consumer fundamentals, likely mounting caution over making major spending decisions, and elevated house price to earnings ratios will weigh down further on housing market activity and house prices over the coming months."