UK house prices are expected to fall by 4.5% on average next year, however, this is still unlikely to make property more affordable for young buyers, new data has predicted.
According to the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), 2023 is likely to be a challenging year for the UK housing sector, with peak annual contraction of 6.2% expected in the third quarter.
This comes amid sharp rises in mortgage rates, significant cost of living pressures, an impending recession, and anticipated increases in unemployment.
“While the recently announced energy price cap will bring some respite to households and businesses, these forces are nonetheless set to plague the economy for at least the next year,” the Cebr said.
It has forecast that the fall in house prices will still make housing unaffordable for "generation rent", and fail to reduce inequality.
“A contracting housing market will bring economic pain for everyone,” the economics consultancy said.
Property makes up an important proportion of national wealth. The latest English Housing Survey showed that two-thirds (65%) of households own their home.
According to data from the ONS Wealth and Assets Survey, aggregate property wealth in the UK accounted for over a third (36%) of total wealth between April 2018 and March 2020.
For those in the middle and upper-middle of the country’s wealth distribution, it represents the single most valuable asset class.
With housing wealth skewed to certain socioeconomic groups, and given the general appreciation of property values, its distribution has become more unequal over the past 15 years.
The share of housing wealth held by the least wealthy half of the population fell from 9.4% in 2006-2008 to 8.7% in 2018-2020, while that of the wealthiest fifth rose from 56.6% to 57.4%.
Although data on housing wealth inequality during the pandemic period is not yet available, the Cebr believes it is likely to have worsened in light of rapid price growth and an apparent ballooning of second home purchases.
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Assuming that property prices decline equally in proportional terms, this implies a harder relative hit to overall middle-class wealth than that of the wealthiest. Meanwhile, those in the lowest wealth decile will be plunged deeper into negative equity, widening the gap between richest and poorest.
The Cebr added: “Given that frequently the biggest hurdle to get onto the housing ladder is the deposit, lenders’ tendency to push down loan-to-value ratios during periods of downturn means market accessibility at the lower ends is in fact set to worsen.”
More broadly, falling house prices pose an economic threat regardless of homeownership status.
It comes as the latest data from Cebr and YouGov’s consumer confidence index shows that, after worries about energy prices, the next biggest concern was about home values.
The two factors drove consumer confidence into overall negative territory for the first time since May 2020.
The impact of consumer sentiment on household expenditure is particularly important in the UK, where consumption makes up more than 60% of GDP.
The Cebr called on the UK government to consider reviving the stamp duty holiday, or start a complete overhaul of property taxation in order to keep some life in the housing market, and thus the UK economy more broadly.