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Biggest annual fall in house prices in 2008

Good news for buyers and sellers

House prices fell by 15.9% during 2008, the biggest annual drop on record, figures showed today. 

buying a house

The average cost of a UK home dropped by a further 2.5% in December, dashing hopes that November’s slide of 0.4% marked a stabilisation in the rate at which prices were falling.

But home buyers and sellers may actually benefit from the decline, as Which?s no-nonsense guide to buying and selling property in a falling market shows.

Nationwide warned that prices were likely to have further to fall before significant numbers of buyers returned to the market as affordability measures still remained well above their long-run average.

The annual change, which was the biggest since the group began collecting data in this format in 1991, left the average house price at £153,048 – £20,000 less than in December last year and back down to levels seen in the spring of 2005.

Economic implications

Fionnuala Earley, Nationwide’s chief economist, said: “2008 has been a year of turmoil in the UK housing market. The disruption in the financial markets worsened throughout 2008 and had larger implications for the real economy than we anticipated a year ago.

“This time last year we expected the housing market to cool quickly as affordability was poor and economic conditions looked set to weaken, but we did not anticipate the speed of house price falls or the extent of the global and domestic economic slowdown.”

She added that conditions remained highly volatile going into 2009, making it difficult to give a specific forecast for the year. 

The group’s figures are in line with statistics reported by Britain’s biggest mortgage lender, Halifax, at the end of last week, which showed that house prices had fallen by 16.2% during the final quarter of 2008 compared with the same period of 2007, after losing 2.2% of their value in December.

First-time buyers benefit

Nationwide said demand from consumers was likely to be an important factor in 2009, with people unlikely to be upbeat about the prospects for house prices until the economy and labour markets stabilised, hindering the pace of the recovery.But it added that there was now likely to be significant pent-up demand from potential first-time buyers who had been priced out of the market since 2003.

Ms Earley said: “The short-term outlook for the housing market is fairly weak. This should not be surprising given the economic and labour market conditions we expect to face.

“Sharp cuts in interest rates will provide support to existing and potential homeowners and pave the way for the improvement in affordability which will eventually encourage buyers back into the market.”

First-time buyers should take a look at the Which? advice page about getting onto the property ladder and also take advantage our mortgage calculator.

© Press Association 2009

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