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What does 2023 have in store for mortgages and housing?

Blog by Paul Broadhead, BSA Head of Mortgage & Housing Policy


By Paul Broadhead, Head of Mortgage & Housing Policy at the BSA. This article was first published in Mortgage Finance Gazette

A new year is always a good time to stand back, take stock and look at what the year ahead may bring.

At first glance, it’s a bleak picture for mortgage borrowers as we reflect on how we ended last year – double digit inflation, nine consecutive Bank Rate rises and house prices starting to fall – but is the outlook as worrying as the facts suggest?

Inflation, whilst high at 10.7%, has started to fall (with the Prime Minister pledging to half it this year), partly as a result of reduced consumer spending, but also due to lower petrol prices and the government energy support package which has capped household energy costs in addition to providing £400 towards the cost of heating every home in the country. Whilst the price cap will rise in April, this should coincide with lower energy use as warmer days come along, and it will still provide some protection and certainty to households.

Of course a slowing economy is likely to lead to some job losses, however as unemployment levels are currently very low at 3.6%, even the most pessimistic forecast of a rise to between 4.5% - 6% will still mean employment remains stronger than we have seen in previous recessions.

The Bank Rate increase of a further 0.5% in December was unwelcome news for many, but with two committee members suggesting there is no longer a strong case for further rises, I don’t expect the increases this year to be as frequent or as high as we saw in 2022. The markets are pricing in a Bank Rate at 4.75%, but I expect we will see it peak at around 4.5% this year – which of course is still much higher than we have seen for many years.

For some there’s no doubt that 2023 will be a difficult year. 1.8 million households will come to the end of their current fixed rate mortgage deal and when they look to re-mortgage their new rate will undoubtedly be significantly higher than their current rate. At the moment it’s likely to cost those at the end of a 2 year fixed rate, who re-mortgage to a new similar deal, around £289 more a month[1] – quite a jump when considered alongside all the other increased living costs.  This may become an even bigger shock for those with a 2 year fixed rate due to mature in autumn this year, as we saw the lowest ever mortgage deals in September 2021, where 2 year fixes were available for around 1%.

You’ll therefore not be surprised that despite mortgage arrears having remained broadly stable in 2022, I expect more people to get into difficulties this year. Lenders have many tools to help those struggling financially and will do everything possible to help make mortgage payments affordable and to keep people in their homes wherever possible. The changes to the Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) loan scheme, which will see the payments kicking in after 12 weeks rather than 39 weeks, is a welcome change that we have long campaigned for, and which I expect will prove to be a lifeline to some.

Finally, looking at house prices, it’s not surprising that we have seen some reduction after the significant growth in the last two years. Some of the more gloomy commentators have suggested falls might be as much as 20% this year, but most economic forecasters are suggesting price falls of 5% - 10% this year. I expect on average it will be somewhere in between 5% and 10%, however, as I often say, there isn’t just one housing market, and there will be regional and even local market variations.

A fall in house prices inevitably leads to talk of negative equity. With the house price growth that we have seen recently, only those who have bought in the last 12 -18 months may be impacted by negative equity, although it’s worth noting that the average lender loan-to-value (LTV) is less than 50%, and only 6% of new lending by building societies in the last six months was at 95% LTV. I don’t therefore expect negative equity to become an issue this year, and of course it only really becomes an issue for those who need to move home at speed.

In our December 2022 Property Tracker Report, consumers told us the things they were most worried about in the next six months was rising energy prices (70%) and the rising cost of food (63%), understandable as fresh food price inflation was 15%[2] in the run-up to Christmas. More positively, the majority of homeowners (87%) said they were not concerned about keeping up with their mortgage payments. I think they’re right - 2023 is going to be another tough year, with the cost of living hitting everyone, but I don’t expect it to be as difficult for homeowners as we have seen during earlier recessions.

Notes

1Based on a £130k mortgage for 25yr term. It compares the rate on the loan 2 or 5 years ago (depending on term) to the one available now (based on latest data - October 2022) on the same basis i.e. assumes 2yr fixed will re-mortgage onto another 2yr fixed at the same LTV and for the same £130k.

2 BBC - Fresh food prices rose at record rate pre-Christmas