Will an interest-rate rise spark the end of Britain's housing bubble?

The UK property market has boomed since Covid-19, underpinned by cheap money. But that could soon end.

UK property has shrugged off the end of the stamp-duty holiday. Online estate agent Rightmove reports that “every region of Britain saw house asking-price records broken in October”, says Helen Crane on This Is Money. That is the first time this has happened since March 2007. Wales and the northwest of England have seen the strongest rises, as buyers race to complete before expected interest-rate hikes from the Bank of England. 

The average UK asking price is up by 6.5% year-on-year at £344,445, but “most homes still sell below the asking price”. Property website Zoopla calculates that the boom has taken the total value of British homes up by £550bn in a year, says Hilary Osborne in The Guardian. Zoopla values the housing stock at £9.2trn, four times GDP. The market has boomed since Covid-19, says Ross Clark in The Spectator.

But could an interest-rate rise finally do for UK property? Cheap money has underpinned the long boom: prices in many places have quadrupled over the last 30 years, but that is only because mortgage rates have plunged by 75% over the same period. The trouble is that the government is so scared of the chaos that a housing bust would unleash that it is unlikely to let it happen: witness the tax goodies offered to the sector during the pandemic. Governments “of both colours have repeatedly come up with wheezes to keep the housing market afloat”.

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