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Will Capping the Income to Mortgage Ratio Cool the London Property Market?

Written by Jon Cooper

The ongoing steep increase in house prices is starting to cause a real concern that the UK economic recovery could be undermined.

The average marketed price of a property in London has risen by an astonishing £80,000 since the start of the year with the average price in the capital now exceeding £590,000 for the first time.

Across England and Wales as a whole, the marketed price is 8.9% higher than a year ago, at an average of just over £270,000, which is nearly at the growth level in autumn 2007 just before the crash. 

Over the weekend, the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, warned of “deep, deep structural problems” in the UK property market with the main problem being that not enough new homes were being built.

The fear of the effects of the potency of property price rises in London has led to calls for the Bank of England to intervene.

In addition, there is pressure on the government to modify the Help to Buy scheme by reducing the upper threshold of property value from the current level of £600,000.

Last night in a pre-emptive move, the largest mortgage lender in the UK that accounts for 20% of new mortgages, the Lloyds Banking Group announced that loans would be capped at four times the level of a borrower’s income for mortgages over £500,000.  Previously, their lenders including Halifax, Cheltenham & Gloucester, Birmingham Midshires and the Bank of Scotland, had frequently lent at much higher income ratios, particularly in London.

Although the consistent low level of interest rates is chiefly cited as the main factor fuelling the property price boom, it is worth looking at the London borough with the largest increase in property prices over the last year, Tower Hamlets, which covers Canary Wharf.

In the last year, property prices have increased by 43% but this has been driven by investors buying in Canary Wharf and the surrounding areas.  Moreover, around two-thirds of these have been purchased outright for cash with no mortgage.

There is a clear risk that these moves by the government and banks will open up the London property market further to investors rather than cooling the increase in prices and, as a result, the London bubble will continue.

If you would like more detailed guidance on the impact of these changes or have a specific question, please contact welcome@cooperfaure.co.uk to arrange a consultation.

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