Friday, 30 November 2012


The question I'm most often asked when people realise I work for a building society is; what do you think will happen to house prices? I've now become adept at  dodging the desired soundbite response by reminding my inquisitor that forecasting is very difficult, especially if it's the future you seek to forecast ! I have also tried to nuance my response with a reminder of how territorial the UK housing market is, and how London and the south east is practically another eco-system compared to our local housing market here in north Staffordshire. Recent Land Registry figures actually show that the north/south divide is widening; London house prices are up 7% over the 12 months to the end of  October while prices in the north east fell by 5.8%. In fact if you scope into prices in the London Borough of Kensington & Chelsea you will see average price rises of an eye-watering  15.9% in that period. Mortgage lending for house purchases in London is also disproportionately high, up 22% against an  average of +13% nationally, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders' most recent figures. So the disparity in house prices in favour of  London is unlikely to fade anytime soon and  the north/south divide is a hallmark of the UK market. Which is one reason (but not the only reason) why local building societies like The Hanley have such a key part to play in making mortgage funds available to local housing markets, to such an extent that some of our products are specifically designed for the locality in which we were founded, and upon which our business success is so rooted.  Small, local mutuals like The Hanley can serve local customers with mortgage deals that are not available on a national scale.This is most notable in the first-time buyer market, where frankly we feel a responsibility to assist local people to get on that first rung of the homebuying ladder. So a modest 5% deposit can still be enough to obtain a Hanley mortgage for first time buyers in our heartland, despite what the national media may declare.So sometimes a fragmented, territorial market can have it's benefits, even if it makes that soundbite answer to the house-prices question much tougher to compose.      

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