As we enter 2024 the New Year property market has started strongly. The previous year was one of the most challenging markets we have seen since the financial crisis of 2008/9. The market faced a perfect storm of uncertainty. The cost of living crisis created by rapidly rising inflation in the first half of the year resulted in a rapid rise in the base rate of interest by the Bank of England. Economic growth through the year was sluggish at best. Thankfully the housing market began to stabilise in the last quarter of the year as the cycle of interest rate rises peaked at 5.25% in September and inflationary pressures eased to 3.9% in November. Well down on the figure of circa 9% at the beginning of the year.
Before Christmas, competition in the mortgage market ramped up with lenders beginning to ease rates as they fought for new business from would be purchasers. This in turn started to drive market appetite for property in the early part of January. On a local level, activity across the Ashtons Group at the start of the year has returned to levels not previously seen since 2021 during the post covid recovery. So far 38% more new buyers have registered than at the same point in 2023 and 116% more sales agreed across our network.
Early signs are undoubtedly positive for the year ahead. Expectations are that the base rate of interest will begin to fall in the spring and will end the year around the 4% mark. Mortgage borrowing will become significantly more favourable. The Chancellor will be presenting his Budget on 6th March. The expectation is for an electorate friendly raft of tax-cutting measures and as all politicians know, a party cannot win a general election if house prices are falling. So, it is fair to assume there will be further stimulus for the property market.
The geo-political situation is, however, a cause for concern. The ongoing war in Ukraine, further contagion in the Middle East spreading beyond Israel and Gaza are major concerns. Notwithstanding a Presidential election in the United States which could further drive polarisation in America, all have the potential for further economic fallout. What is certain though is the enduring appeal of the part of the world we call home. We live in an area with outstanding housing stock, excellent schools, and superb connections to London and beyond. There will always be demand locally whatever is happening in the wider world.
If you aspire to move in 2024 at Ashtons we have over 40 years of market leading expertise and are on hand to assist you whatever the market. Contact your local office today and we look forward to guiding you through the year whatever it may hold.