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Consumer confidence in housing market remains stable

Consumer confidence in the housing market shows little change despite the cost of living crisis, according to OnTheMarket.

The property website reports that high levels of buyer and seller sentiment continued unabated in March, with the proportion of active purchasers and vendors confident that they can purchase or sell within three months unchanged from February.

Despite considerable upheaval over the past month in the wider economy, including another Bank of England base rate rise of 0.25 percentage points, taking us back to the pre-Covid rate of 0.75%, together with the cost of living crisis becoming prevalent in many householders’ minds, the housing market continues to adjust and thrive, OTM said.

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Jason Tebb, chief executive officer of OTM, suggests that the current market is continuing to adjust to a ‘new normal’, an elevated version of the pre-pandemic market, where heightened buyer activity and demand continues to meet low levels of housing stock.

He commented: “March saw an uptick in new listings coming to the market as we’d expect in the run-up to Easter, particularly large, detached family properties. However, as well as those who may have recently made the decision to move this year, there remains strong pent-up demand from buyers who are keen to rectify missing out on a move in the past 12 or even 24 months.

“Sure enough, our data bears this out with 64% of properties sold within 30 days of first being advertised for sale in March, compared with 61% of properties in February. In real terms, this echoes what many of our agents are saying anecdotally, which is that new listings aren’t hanging around for long.

“Many of those buyers who hesitated and didn’t make a purchase last year are finding it difficult to afford what they were considering buying previously, such are the price differentials and gains in value over the last 12 months.

“What’s more, despite double-digit growth in many parts of the country, asking prices continue to rise; our data showed a £12,517 jump in average asking prices between February and March 2022 alone.”

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Tebb is urging buyers to be “organised, bold and decisive” if they are serious about moving, especially with demand likely to outweigh supply for a while yet.

“Delays in committing to a purchase could mean the market further runs away from them, or at the very least buyers will suffer from the disappointment of missing out on their chosen property,” he added.

Vendors are currently achieving strong prices but, naturally, for those moving up the ladder that also means spending a relatively higher price on their next property, as the trading gap is growing ever wider.

Tebb continued: “Overall, we’d suggest that a remarkable level of confidence remains in the housing market, despite all apparent headwinds. With rising living costs only likely to continue on their upwards trajectory, many buyers are keen to lock into a low mortgage rate before they rise further still.

“This means that the current direction of travel for the UK’s property market seems set to remain unchanged, certainly as spring heralds the usual time for sellers to instruct an agent to take advantage of gardens that are looking more colourful now winter is behind us.”

By MARC DA SILVA

Source: Property Industry Eye

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UK housing market remains solid despite economic worries – RICS

The UK housing market had solid growth in March as the number of homes listed for sale rose despite worries about higher living costs and interest rates, a survey showed.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICS) residential market survey found that +8% of estate agents had a rise in fresh listings and that new buyer enquiries rose with +9% of respondents reporting an increase. This was the first time since the start of the pandemic that supply and demand had been so closely in line.

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The number of agreed sales was unchanged from February at +9%, showing a steady increase in transactions. But the average number of properties on agents’ books stayed close to historic lows. RICS’ figures show the difference between agents reporting increases and declines.

Agents were moderately optimistic about the outlook with +16% of respondents expecting activity to increase over the next three months and with agents expecting volumes to be broadly stable over the coming year.

House prices continued their upward trend with +74% of agents reporting increases, in line with the trend over the past year. Northern Ireland, Wales and northern England had the biggest increases.

Respondents expect prices to keep rising over the next three and 12 months despite worries about higher living costs and potential interest rate increases designed to combat inflation. In the rental market landlord instructions rose for the first time since July 2020 but demand still outstrips supply and rents are expected to rise.

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Simon Rubinsohn, RICS’ chief economists, said: “Despite mounting concerns about both the macro environment and the war in Ukraine, for now the feedback to the RICS survey shows the housing market remains resilient. Rising interest rates have begun to push up the cost of mortgage finance but debt servicing remains low in a historic context which helps to explain why the new buyer enquiries indicator remains in positive territory.”

The UK’s housing market boomed during the pandemic, driven by a temporary cut to stamp duty and households reassessing their property needs with the ability to work from home. Activity has reduced from the frenzy of 2021 but many experts have been surprised by how long the market has stayed busy.

Rubinsohn said: “It is encouraging that a little more stock appears to be returning to the market. This is still early days in that inventory remains not far off historic lows but if the trend continues, it could help to create a better balance between supply and demand. That said, there is little evidence of this outcome materialising in the 12-month metrics which continue to point to further increases in prices and a flatter pattern in transactions.”

By Sean Farrell

Source: ShareCast

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Mortgage demand lifts despite spike in living costs: BoE

Demand for secured lending for house purchases lifted in the first quarter of the year and is expected to jump over the next three months, according to a Bank of England report.

Banks and building societies reported a net balance of 6 when asked how demand had changed, swinging from -34.8 in the final quarter of last year, despite steep rises in the cost of living.

When asked how demand would change over the coming three months a balance of 17.3 said demand would be greater, compared to -28.7 at the end of last year, says the Bank’s latest credit conditions survey.

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Demand for remortgages was in positive territory at 14.9 in the first quarter, but lower than the net balance of 70.4 of lenders who reported three months ago.

However, over the coming three months a balance of 11.1 lenders expect to see higher demand for remortgages compared to -7.2 at the end of last year.

The survey comes at a time when the country faces a cost of living crisis. Inflation rose to 7% in the year to March, the highest rate since 1992 and up from 6.2% in February. Energy bills are set to rise by an average of 54% this month, interest rates have lifted three times in four months to 0.75%, with national insurance contributions and council tax bills also set to rise – sparked by supply chains shortages and the war in Ukraine.

Lenders in the Bank’s survey were gloomy about the availability of secured credit reporting a balance of -2.7, compared to 23.1 three months ago.

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Over the coming quarter -22.3 thought secured credit to households would tighten, swinging from 15.1 at the end of last year.

Lenders blamed a changed economic outlook for squeezed credit conditions reporting a balance of -18, compared to 20.2 three months ago.

Banks and building societies continue to be willing to lend to first-time buyers, but are more cautious about this market. When asked about their willingness to supply loans to borrowers with equity of 10% or less they reported a balance of 9.6, compared to 19.8 in the previous quarter.

Over the coming three months a balance of 10.8 showed interest in the FTB market, compared to 30.7 at the end of last year.

By Roger Baird

Source: Mortgage Finance Gazette

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UK house prices increase 10.9% from February 2021

House prices in the UK have increased 10.9% on an annual basis, with the average property in the UK being valued at £276,755, according to the latest data from the government’s house price index.

The data found that house prices in the UK have risen by 0.5% since January this year.

The UK Property Transactions Statistics showed that in February 2022, on a seasonally adjusted basis, the estimated number of transactions of residential properties with a value of £40,000 or greater was 112,240, representing a 20.8% decrease compared to February 2021.

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Between January and February 2022, UK transactions increased by 4.4% on a seasonally adjusted basis.

SPF Private Clients managing director of mortgage broker Mark Harris suggests that the “ready availability of cheap finance” is one of the contributing factors to higher house prices.

Harris comments: “Lenders remain keen to lend, with borrowers opting for longer-term fixes in order to counter the considerable uncertainty in the world.”

“While changes are being consulted on to relax some affordability criteria and allow certain buyers to borrow more, a return to irresponsible lending is unlikely given there would still be barriers in place,” he adds.

In England, house prices have on average increased by 0.9% since the start of this year, while an annual price rise of 10.7% takes the average property value to £295,888.

For London, house prices have on average gone up by 2.2% since January, while on an annual basis prices have risen by 8.1%, which has increased the average property value to £529,882.

Although London may not be seeing the fastest levels of growth compared with other parts of the country, Antony Roberts director Alex Lyle says: “London continues its upwards trend in prices, with detached family homes doing particularly well.”

“We continue to see large numbers of viewings, multiple offers and sealed bid scenarios, with buyers on our patch anxious not so much about rising house prices or interest rates but limited choice.”

Meanwhile, house prices in Wales have fallen on average by 0.7% since January 2022, however, on an annual basis, the average property value has increased by 14.2% to £205,114.

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Regional data showed that the East of England experienced the greatest increase in its average property value over the last 12 months with a movement of 12.5%.

The East Midlands saw the most significant monthly price fall with a movement of -0.4%.

London experienced the greatest monthly growth with an increase of 2.2% but saw the lowest annual price growth with an increase of 8.1%.

Henry Dannell director Geoff Garrett says: “The market has continued to excel despite what is a very delicate economic landscape and while the cost of borrowing has remained fairly favourable, those currently looking to buy should tread very cautiously with regard to over borrowing.”

“It remains to be seen as to whether the cost of a mortgage will climb substantially this year, but with the wider cost of living also putting a squeeze on household finances, those borrowing well beyond their means may fall into financial difficulty further down the line,” Garrett adds.

With soaring inflation, the ongoing cost of living crisis and higher energy bills, Quilter mortgage expert Karen Noye says “many people are feeling the squeeze financially”.

Adding into the mix, the new energy price cap and increase in national insurance, alongside an increase in moving costs, Noye suggests house prices could dip over the coming months.

She comments: “While house prices have remained robust for the time being, how the housing market truly reacts to the current circumstances is yet to be seen. However, it is unlikely that house prices will be able to continue rising at the same rate seen in recent times – particularly against the backdrop of an economy already trying to recover from the impact of the pandemic.”

“If a slowdown does begin to materialise, a gradual fall in house prices is expected as opposed to a sudden drop. At present, there remains too much demand and too little stock, so house prices will likely remain high for some time yet,” Noye concludes.

By Becky Bellamy

Source: Mortgage Finance Gazette

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Annual house price growth in England and Wales up 8.4%

Annual house price growth has increased to 8.4% in England and Wales during March, according to the latest data from e.surv’s Acadata House Price Index.

Data showed that the average price paid for a home in England and Wales increased by £4,900 to £370,052, which equates to an increase of 1.3% compared to the average price paid in February.

The increase sets a new record level for England and Wales for the fifth time in 12 months, underlining the recent strength of the market.

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Prices are 8.4%, above March 2021 levels, representing a 2.9% increase over February 2022’s revised annual rate of 5.5% for homes bought with cash or a mortgage.

The average house price in England and Wales has continued to increase throughout Q1 2022 on an almost straight-line basis.

While market commentary had predicted a slowing growth rate, house prices throughout large areas of England and Wales have continued to climb so far this year.

The percentage change in annual house prices on a regional basis in England, and for Wales, averaged over the three-month period of January to March 2022, compared to the same three months the previous year.

Seven regions saw an increase in their annual rates of growth, compared to the previous month, while three areas experienced a fall, all of which were located in the north of England.

Wales was named the area with the highest annual growth rate, a position it has held for eight consecutive months. South East dropped in second place in terms of house price growth while the South West stood in third place with Bournemouth witnessing a 19.4% price growth over the last 12 months.

During Q1 2022, e.surv’s heat map showed four distinct area in England and Wales in terms of house price growth with Wales having an annual price growth of 8.9% which is 1.2% higher than the next region of the South East.

The South East, which was grouped with the South West and Greater London, saw prices rise between 6.7% and 7.7% per annum, while the Midlands, consisting of the East and West Midlands, saw price increases between 3.7% and 4.3%.

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The North of England, consisting of the North East, the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber, saw prices rising by less than 2.5%.

Commenting on the data, e.surv director Richard Sexton says: “The strength of the market is underpinned by the continued limited supply and strong demand for space post the pandemic to meet our new expectations of how and where we live and work.”

Sexton explains: “This has been most visible for many months in the performance of Wales as a region but it is supported by the growth in the commuter belts of the South East which offer space but also proximity and good connections to urban centres for hybrid working.”

“Ultimately low interest rates continue to support buyers’ affordability. The Bank of England has alluded to rates rising slowly in the face of economic headwinds. But inflation has traditionally signalled diminishing returns in other asset groups and often heralds a re-emergence in the popularity of bricks and mortar with investors. We may therefore see even more demand for those desirable properties that are coming to market,” he adds.

By Becky Bellamy

Source: Mortgage Finance Gazette

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Landlord purchases in Q1 2022, highest in six years – Hamptons

Investors purchased 13.9% of homes sold across Great Britain in the first quarter of 2022, up from 12% recorded during the same period of last year.

This was revealed in the latest Hamptons Lettings Index, which also found that this year’s figure marked the highest proportion recorded in the first quarter of any year since 2016, when investors rushed to beat the 3% stamp duty surcharge on second homes.

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Overall, investors bought 42,980 homes across Great Britain during the first three months of this year, equating to £8.5 billion worth of property, which is nearly twice the £4.6 billion recorded during the pre-pandemic first quarter of 2019.

The increase in buy-to-let purchases may help reverse the decline of the private rented sector which shrunk from a peak of 5.3 million homes in 2017 to five million in 2021. However, the increase may not be enough to cover the lack of supply, according to Aneisha Beveridge, head of research at Hamptons.

“While we expect investors to continue purchasing at around the same rate over the course of 2022, it’s unlikely to be enough to make up for the full loss of rental homes during the last five years,” Beveridge said.

A lack of stock has also meant that investors are increasingly having to pay over the asking price. According to Hamptons, for the first time since it began recording data, the average investor is paying over 100% of the asking price for a buy-to-let in England and Wales.

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Meanwhile, the average cost of a new let in Great Britain rose to £1,115 pcm last month, up 9.1% from its 2021 low of £1,022 pcm in March last year.

“A lack of rental homes is one of the reasons why rents have been rising at such pace over the last year. March set a new record for rental growth as rents bounced back from 2021 lockdown lows last March,” Beveridge said.

“But as these new buy-to-let purchases begin to feed into the lettings market over the coming months, we expect to see rental growth cool, particularly as the cost-of-living crisis weighs on affordability too,” she added.

By Rommel Lontayao

Source: Mortgage Introducer

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House prices jump in March, Halifax data shows

House prices continued to defy gravity and surged upwards in March, with Halifax’s latest house price index showing a 1.4% rise – the biggest monthly increase for six months.

Year on year house prices are now rising at 11 per cent, the highest level seen since mid 2007, shortly before the financial crash.

These latest gains helped push the average property price to a new record high of £282,753.

Halifax points out that the average property has increased in value by £28,113 in the space of a year, which is on par with the average UK earnings over the same period – at £28,860.

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Regional figures show that the South West is the region enjoying the strongest growth, with annual house price inflation of 14.6%.The average house price is now £298,162, a record for the region.

This is the first time since January 2021 that Wales has not recorded the UK’s highest annual growth, house price inflation remains extremely strong, at 14.1%.

Elsewhere, property prices in Northern Ireland also continue to be on the rise, with annual growth now at 13%, and an average price of £177,265.

The South East also saw a big increase in house prices, with annual growth now at 11.6%, and an average price of £385,790. Prices in the region have now risen by £40,177 over the last year, the first time any English region outside of London has ever posted a £40,000-plus rise over just 12 months.

London itself continued its recent upward trend, with prices now up by 5.9% year-on-year, with an average price of £534,977.

Meanwhile house prices also edged up again in Scotland – reaching a new record of £194,621. However the rate of annual growth continues to slow somewhat, falling to 8.2% from 9.3% last month.

Halifax’s data shows the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the housing market. The average house price has risen by 18.2% in the two years since the first national lockdown.

However, the impact of the pandemic on buyer demand can be seen most clearly when looking at different property types, with a premium now put on those properties offering greater space – both indoors and out. Over this two year period, prices for flats have increased by 10.6% whereas the average detached property has increased by 21.3%.

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Halifax managing director Russell Galley says: “The story behind such strong house price inflation remains unchanged: limited supply and strong demand, despite the prospect of increasing pressure on households’ finances. Although there is some recent evidence of more homes coming onto the market, the fundamental issue remains that too many buyers are chasing too few properties.”

Galley adds that thee market conditions were creating challenges for first-time buyers and homemovers who face ever bigger leaps to move up the rungs to a larger property.

He says that the housing market though remains linked to the health of the wider economy. “Buyers are therefore dealing with the prospect of higher interest rates and a higher cost of living. With affordability metrics already extremely stretched, these factors should lead to a slowdown in house price inflation over the next year.”

Commenting on this latest data SPF Private Clients chief executive Mark says: “Halifax reports yet another uplift in property prices as demand continues to outstrip supply. Lenders are still keen to lend and have plenty of cash available to do so, enabling borrowers who may be sitting on considerable savings accrued during lockdown to stretch themselves to afford a bigger property.

“There has been wide speculation that higher fixed costs such as the hike in national insurance contributions and increase in general cost of living will impact affordability calculations when it comes to getting a mortgage. If costs are going up, it stands to reason that this will impact borrowers as there is less money available to service the mortgage.

“But for now, borrowers are taking advantage of low mortgage rates with some lenders, such as Halifax and Scottish Widows, increasing loan-to-income multiples from 4.49 to 4.75 per cent for higher earners.’

North London estate agent and former RICS residential chairman Jeremy Leaf adds: “These numbers are very strong but mostly reflect activity of the past few months.

“Since then we’ve noticed, on the ground, how rising interest rates, inflation and energy costs in particular, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, have taken their toll.

“There is still plenty of market resilience and demand for correctly-priced houses and flats but increasingly stretched affordability is inevitably putting a break on price growth and transaction numbers.”

Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown: “Your home made almost as much money as you did last year. But while homeowners might feel better off on paper, for anyone trying to get onto the ladder, or move up it, this is pushing properties even further out of reach. And right now may not be a sensible time to stretch yourself.”

Source: Mortgage Finance Gazette

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Boom in the buy-to-let property market

Demand is growing for buy-to-let properties across the north and north-east as investors seek to capitalise on good rental returns and the rising property market.

Local estate agent Galbraith has reported a boom in the buy-to-let market with a typical two-bedroom apartment in Inverness expected to sell for £165,000 with a prospective landlord achieving rent of between £750 to £775 per month.

Marsaili Macleod, a lettings adviser with Galbraith, says there are two key reasons why there has been a shift in the market.

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Strong demand from tenants

“In recent years investors have been more interested in the holiday lets sector as these were often considered a more profitable option than residential lets,” said Marsaili.

“Now we are talking to more landlords who are interested in the core residential lets market for two reasons.

“Firstly, strong demand from tenants and lack of supply means that rental prices are rising and the landlord can pick and choose from waiting tenants.

“Secondly the value of the property itself will rise over the term of ownership because property prices have risen considerably in Scotland over the past two years.

“Many of our clients are planning ahead and investing in a buy-to-let property which will achieve good capital growth and fulfil their financial objectives while offering security.”

Lenders are currently offering capital and interest mortgages, or interest-only mortgages, for buy-to-let properties with monthly repayments lower than the likely monthly rental fee.

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According to Marsaili, this offers the potential to achieve a return each month even taking into account that a purchase of this kind is subject to the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax at 4 per cent on second homes.

And with the cost of borrowing remaining low, Marsaili also believes that this is playing a part in the market change as people are using it as an opportunity to invest in their future.

Low borrowing costs

“Although interest rates are rising, the cost of borrowing remains historically low,” said Marsaili.

“The potential returns in the buy-to-let sector are good, coupled with the likely significant rise in value of the property itself over the term of ownership.

“Clients are considering whether to buy a property which can be let now to a tenant and in five or 10 years’ time potentially made available to their children as a first home or for when they go to university.

“Having evaluated the returns from the holiday lets sector and the potential returns from residential tenancies, clients are choosing the residential lets market.”

Galbraith currently lets over 1,000 homes to residential tenants for clients across Scotland and the north of England.

By Rosemary Lowne

Source: The Press and Journal

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First-time homebuyers enjoy COVID deposit boost

Cuts in spending during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic have enabled many planning to buy their first home to save more for their deposits, new research from the Nottingham Building Society revealed.

The study found that one in five (19%) of those planning to buy a house for the first time in the next five years will have deposits saved this year.

It also showed that one in three (32%) will be viewing properties in 2022, while 8% of first-time buyers have already started house hunting.

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Citing results of the same survey, Iain Kirkpatrick, chief customer officer at Nottingham Building Society, said that COVID-19 restrictions placed on people had seen many dramatically cut back on the amount they spent – from eating out, to buying new clothes, and going on holidays.

Of those who were able to save for their first home, 60% have spent less on clothes, 56% have made sacrifices when it comes to eating out, and 51% cut spend on holidays.

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“Although it has been a very difficult time, for many of those saving for their first home, the reduction in their expenditure provided an opportunity to dramatically increase their deposit savings and move a step closer to owning their own home,” Kirkpatrick said.

The survey, commissioned by Nottingham Building Society, was conducted by consumer research company Consumer Intelligence, which interviewed 1,023 UK adults online from February 18 –21.

By Rommel Lontayao

Source: Mortgage Introducer

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Property rents rise as Scotland catches up with England & Wales

Scottish property rents have continued to rise at a higher rate than the rest of Britain after years of low increases according to analysis of the latest data from property firm DJ Alexander Ltd, part of the Lomond Group which is the largest lettings and estate agency in Scotland.

The latest data up to February 2022 shows that the annual increase in rents was 2.6% compared with 2.1% in England and 1.4% in Wales. The Scottish annual rate has been higher than England and Wales each month since July 2021. However, over the long term since 2015, rents in England and Wales have risen at a higher rate than Scotland.

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David Alexander, the chief executive officer of DJ Alexander Scotland, commented:

“The current increases in rents across Scotland reflects growing demand but is also a sign that the market is correcting itself. This data shows that Scotland’s rent increases have consistently been lower than England and Wales since 2015 and the current increases are simply a sign of Scotland catching up.

“It also needs to be remembered that a 2.6% annual increase in rents is still quite low given that inflation is now running at around 6 to 7% which means that this increase is actually a reduction in real terms.

“The Scottish government’s own data reveals that two-bedroom private rented sector (PRS) rents over the last eleven years have risen at a rate similar to inflation (25.1% rent increase compared to inflation of 24.3% over the same period).

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“Too often the focus on rent rises produces a headline figure rather than one which is adjusted for inflation. This is like saying a pint of beer should be the same price in 2022 as it was in 2010. Everybody knows that is ridiculous but when it comes to the private rented sector many people seem to ignore the fact that rents, like all goods and services, must rise each year by at least inflation.

“I do believe that rents will increase much more in the coming year due to skyrocketing inflation and the cost-of-living crisis. Hardest hit will be those properties which are let on an all-inclusive basis including bills as the soaring cost of utilities will be a particularly strong driver of rising prices.

“Landlords, investors, and agents should all take care in explaining the reasons for rent increases whilst tenants, their representative organisations, and politicians must also take a realistic approach. Rental prices must rise to keep up with inflation and that such increases are entirely necessary to cover greater costs.”

Source: Property Industry Eye

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