Housing market: confusion reigns

Housing market: confusion reigns
Two wildly contradictory sets of figures show just how confusing the housing market outlook has become. 
The Halifax Housing Market Confidence Tracker said that house price optimism fell to its lowest level for 18 months in January, as lending got off to a sluggish start in 2015.
But that downbeat picture was contradicted by new research from Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks which suggested confidence in the housing market actually hit a three-year high in January.
To add to the contradictory messages, the Halifax House Price Index found prices increased an impressive 2% in January alone to hit £193,130.
Halifax also found that 60% of consumers expect the average property price to be higher in one year’s time, although optimism has fallen to its lowest level since June 2013.
Craig McKinlay, mortgages director at Halifax, said that despite the uncertainty market fundamentals, seasonal patterns remain in place. “Traditionally, a slow start builds to the summer before another lull and then a further period of increase followed by a gradual easing at the end of the year.”
As well as showing housing market sentiment at a three-year high, Clydesdale and Yorkshire's figures showed that one in four homeowners plan to change their current property either by extending or carrying out home improvements.
A further 14% said they want to sell their house in the coming year.
Confidence is at its highest in London where 64% believe their property will increase in value in 2015, whereas in Wales the figure falls to just 24%.
Steve Fletcher, head of Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks Retail Network, said: "We have seen optimism returning to the property market over the last few years and this seems to be growing with more people planning house changes whether it is to move, make home improvements, pay off their mortgage or even help a family member to get onto the property ladder.”
Fletcher said its survey supported the latest findings from the Council of Mortgage Lenders which reported that 2014 lending levels were the highest since 2007.
But the CML also found that gross mortgage lending slumped in January.
The housing market is at a watershed, but nobody can agree where it will go next.