In May, the Bank of England raised interest rates from 0.75% to 1%, with further increases expected over the coming months as the Bank of England seeks to contain inflation – which is already looking on course to pass 10 per cent before the end of the year.
The question is, will higher interest rates help to control the country’s over-heated property market?
According to figures from Halifax, there wasn’t much indication of a slowdown in April with prices rising 1.1 per cent compared to March. The average house price hit £286,079 after the 10th consecutive monthly rise in prices, marking the longest run of increases in six years.
April’s price increase was slightly slower than the 1.4 per cent recorded in March, but the annual increase was still 10.8 per cent which is far greater than the average pay rises.
Ultra-low interest rates have made mortgage borrowing cheap, inflating a housing bubble that has made homeownership a distant dream for many renters in some parts of the UK. Some analysts had predicted house prices could slow down when the Stamp Duty holiday came to an end last year, but so far there is no sign of this.
However, there is much uncertainty in the economy right now. We believe that the impact of a rising base rate above 1 per cent, which will affect mortgage affordability, the fears about living costs and big increases to energy bills will contribute to a steady readjustment of house prices.
Inflation being at the highest since 1982 is a cause for concern. If the Bank of England is forced to raise interest rates too quickly, we could see people who have pushed themselves financially in the ‘race for space’ being forced to sell up. This would of course contribute to higher supply of properties, which in turn would dramatically cool house prices.
For those on fixed-rate mortgages, a rate increase will only make a difference when their term comes to an end, so for now their payments will not go up.
The news is of course less positive for those on tracker mortgages, where the home loan tracks the BoE base rate, as the base rate increase will be passed on to borrowers delivering an immediate increase to their mortgage payments.
For those that are able to, such as borrowers on a variable rate, it would be advised to lock in to a fixed-rate deal, preferably for as long as possible, as interest rates are expected to increase further over the coming months, potentially hitting 3% by the end of the year.