Silver singles: the demographic propping up the housing market

Online agents have surged by over 50 per cent this year, with older movers and single peopole domina

Online agents have surged by over 50 per cent this year, with older movers and single peopole dominating the market - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The over sixties and single people are holding up the housing market, but London faces 5 per cent drop in transactions as buy-to-let sales slump

There has been a 25 per cent drop in buy to let exchanges as stamp duty charges knock back landlord

There has been a 25 per cent drop in buy to let exchanges as stamp duty charges knock back landlords - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

The inaugural Homemover Audit from life event data firm TwentyCi has revealed that the silver economy and single people are the motor behind the UK’s sluggish housing market. The report records a 56 per cent increase in exchanges from buyers aged over 66, and a 69 per cent increase in single adults purchasing homes since last year.

Colin Bradshaw, chief customer officer at TwentyCi, commented: “It’s interesting to see the impact that older consumers are having as they increasingly become the age group with the highest disposable income. It seems that pension reforms, such as the ability to cash in annuities, and even new mortgage deals for people aged 70+, have led to a boost in older home buyers.”

London has been disproportionately hit by the implications of political uncertainty on the market, and faced a 5 per cent drop in exchanges in Q2 in comparison with 2016.

The average asking price in north London was £764,189 this quarter, whilst North West London recorded the highest average asking prices at £1,079,688. The Londonwide average asking price was £830,589, with Bristol commanding the second highest city average. North London marked a rent to sale ratio of 54 to 46 per cent, whilst north west London recorded a ratio of 61 to 39 per cent. Despite the larger numbers of renters, there has been a 25 per cent drop in buy to let exchanges, most likely due to the 3 per cent levy on second homes introduced in April last year, and the incoming scrapping of letting fees.

Independent property market analyst & commentator Kate Faulkner said: “It’s interesting to see the impact of the government tax hikes on the landlord market. Although it may appear ‘good news’ initially that there are fewer buy-to-let investors, this is likely to back fire on tenants as where there is a shortage of rental properties, rents may rise.

“However, it’s also likely to hit the economy which is already slowing. A landlord spends thousands checking a property and letting it, supporting all manner of trades and letting experts. A loss of money in this sector will surely impact on earnings, and therefore on economic growth.”

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More positively, Mr Bradshaw added: “Big cities like London and Manchester are always going to be big markets for renters, especially as Millennials increasingly embrace renting as a lifestyle – and financial – choice.”

The decision isn’t only a lifestyle choice. National average house prices have grown by 0.7 per cent to £298,916. Although slowing to a crawl, continued growth in house prices and a 14 per cent rise in exchanged on owner-occupied properties year on year should allay fears of a house price crash.

In the most recent quarter, 278,000 properties were exchanged, a 6.3 per cent year-on-year increase. Interestingly, since 2016 there has been a 30 per cent increase in exchanges made by those earning less than £20,000 per year.

“The increase in people on lower incomes is likely to be due to help-to-buy and shared ownership schemes,” added Mr Bradshaw.

Online agents, whilst only representing 5 per cent of total exchanges, have increased their market share by 57 per cent this year. The news comes as estate agent giants Foxtons and Countrywide have both reported slumps in profits of 64 and 98 per cent respectively. Online agents made 12,583 exchanges this year, in comparison to 265,192 made by high street agents.

Bradshaw commented: “Last month saw Purplebricks reporting record-breaking growth in revenues. This kind of positive news may add confidence to consumers who may have previously been unsure of listing their property with an online estate agent.

“It’s been a tumultuous year in many ways but our figures show that, despite this, there is a generally positive out turn for the UK property market with no sign yet of the fall in house prices that has been predicted by many pundits,” Mr Bradshaw concluded.