Treasury Watchdog Sounds Alarm Over Runaway Property Market
- Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) says speculators are inflating property prices
- Average price of a London home is expected to jump from £458,000 (GBP) to £650,000 (GBP) by the year 2020
- Average price of a UK residential property reached £254,000 (GBP) in January
Following on from last Friday’s post about the Government’s independent watchdog the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the Treasury’s chief watchdog, Robert Chote has spoken out.
Soaring UK property prices are being inflated by speculators banking on further gains, causing Robert Chote, head of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), to issue a warning that the UK is on the verge of a dangerous housing bubble.
Mr Chote told Treasury Select Committee MP’s: “With very rapid house price increases in some parts of the country you might see bubbly activity where people are willing to buy stuff off plan or not intend to live in it. The surge in prices is partly down to soaring demand, driven by rising confidence, increased lending, and government schemes such as Help-To-Buy combined with a general lack of supply. You can explain the increase in house prices by fundamentals without having to resort to saying there is a bubble going on. That doesn’t mean to say there may not be some bubbly components to what is going on in the housing market in particular parts of the country.
Official figures show the average price of a typical residential property climbed to £254,000 (GBP) in January 2014 – an increase of 6.8% in a year.
Residential property prices were up:
- 13.2% in London
- 7.1% in the South East
- 6.9% in Wales.
As already reported on Spotlight, the OBR expects house prices to rise by more than 30% in the next five years, meaning that the average price of a typical residential property in London is expected to jump from £458,000 (GBP) to £650,000 (GBP) over the next six years.
Mr Chote insisted that the OBR was not “taking a view that house prices are over or undervalued, house price inflation should cool from 8.5% this year to 3.7% in 2017 and 2018.
Steve Nickell, an economist who sits on the OBR with Mr Chote, said: “A bubble arises when demand is being driven by people wanting to get in because of expectations of price growth rather than for somewhere to live. The house price to income ratio has been growing for the last 40 years but that cannot go on forever because everything you consume would become housing and there would be nothing else left.’
But David Ruffley, a Tory MP on the Treasury committee, said forecasters always expect a ‘benign return to equilibrium’ and fail to predict the cycle of boom and bust.
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