UK house prices set for 14% drop in 2021 as support ends


LONDON • UK house prices are set to plunge next year as government support measures to kickstart the economy after lockdown expire.

Average house prices will fall by nearly 14% from 2020 levels, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). The decline will begin toward the end of this year and continue in the first half of 2021, though a brief spike is possible when a temporary sales tax break ends in March.

UK’s residential property market has so far defied the economic fallout from Covid-19 after the government effectively froze the market for about six weeks through mid-May as part of its efforts to slow the outbreak. House prices rose in August by the most in 16 years, driven by the tax break and demand that built up during lockdown, according to Nationwide Building Society.

Yet, most of the factors pushing prices higher — including the tax relief — are transitory in nature, according to a CEBR report yesterday. A key government pro- gramme that has supported 9.6 million jobs, helping to sustain demand in the real estate market, is scheduled to end next month. And rules curtailing repossession of properties, which have con- strained supply and boosted prices, are also set to be lifted.

That could expose the housing market to the full brunt of the recession, with the UK on course for more than twice as many job losses in the coming months than in the recession following the financial crisis, according to the Institute for Employment Studies. Risks facing the economy include mass job losses when wage support is withdrawn, renewed curbs to tackle a rise in infections and the possibility of a disorderly split from the European Union. — Bloomberg