UK House Prices and Monetary Policy


The purpose of this study is to do research on the way property prices have moved in the UK over the last few yrs. The study makes an attempt to bring to light all the factors that are predominantly responsible for the fluctuation in house prices over the last several years. The study also brings to light the factors that are considered for the monetary policy, which has a direct relation with the property prices in the UK. So the purpose of the study covers a wide purview of the Bank of England’s monetary policy and tools used to regulate interest rates and contain inflation and regulate property prices and also the various factors that are responsible for a change in property prices.

Literature Review

Any government has the power to regulate the economy of a country and not only does it regulate the economy, it has a vital role to ensure that the economic condition remains stable. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that all the aspects of the economy maintain a stable level so that the country can grow and expand. The government regulates many things in an economy including inflation, exports and imports, prices of many vital commodities, and also property prices to a large extent.

The government of England has entrusted the job of determining the monetary policy, in the hands of the Bank of England. Bank of England looks into many other big issues. One of the most important issues is that of ensuring monetary stability in the economy, which can be achieved through a combination of stable prices of goods and services across the economy coupled with a low inflation level and level of confidence of the investors in the currency of the country.

The Bank comes out with the monetary policy in order to ensure certain key objectives like delivering price stability with a low inflation level coupled with an objective to support the Government’s economic objectives of growth and employment. Price stability is taken care of, by the Government’s usual inflation target of 2%. There is a need to contemplate the crucial and critical role played by price stability in achieving the aforesaid economic stability, and in providing just the right conditions for a sustainable and longer living growth in output and employment. (How Monetary Policy Works)

Inflation is a very sensitive concern that is one of the major economic factors and is generally impacted by the prices of different articles prevailing in an economy. For example, any increases in oil prices are expected to feed through into inflation over the next few years, and the gap between the value of imports and exports is growing to record levels, prompting expectations of a decline in the value of sterling, which is a welcome sign for the exporters but will hit the importers, as they will have to shell out more money for importing their raw materials leading to a further increase in inflation.

Any decision is taken after considering the condition of the whole economy and all sections of the society at large and there are several other methods to tackle the prices of properties, but it will always be better to increase the rates at a slower but steady pace, rather than giving a monetary shock. Rising Inflation, if not tackled properly and at the right time may create a cycle, wherein inflation keeps rising due to no change in interest rates.

Factors Influencing Property Prices in the UK

Assessing the price of a property is not an easy job, there are three main methods besides the economic factors that determine value, namely “Comparable Sales Method”, “Income Approach” and the “Cost Approach” (Property Valuation for Home Buyers), but these methods are just a tool for a prospective seller to determine the price of the house they are going to sell and this price definitely influences the price at, which the transaction actually takes place.

Let us now analyze how the concept of value plays a role in determining the prices and what factors influence value. As mentioned in the article, value is subjective and differs from person to person. The value of a beautiful flat in a very posh locality can differ from person to person. Someone who likes to lead an isolated life will not value such property as much as they value a deserted place down the countryside. The price of a beautiful flat in a top location may be inflated because of factors like institutions in that area, the economic zone of that area, wage levels in the area, and building zones, and environmental legislation.

These prime factors give rise to a mismatch in demand and supply, which eventually inflates the prices. The point to be taken note of, here, is that prices deducted by the forces of demand and supply will always be different from the prices deducted on the basis of value. The approaches mentioned above evaluate the prices based on value, hence it was important to be familiar with the concept of value. Talking of the demand and supply concept and how this works to influence prices, we can divide the demand and supply conditions into two parts, first when it is a seller’s market and second when it is a buyers market. (Demand and Supply for Housing).

In a seller’s market, there is more demand and scarce supply, which makes it a fine proposition for sellers, as they can wait for their prices to come. In a buyers market, however, the demand is less, and property available in the location is more. This phenomenon gives rise to a buyers’ market, as they can in such a scenario, wait for their prices to come, needless to say, that these prices are far too low then the actual prices. Now the question arises, what happens when there is a shift in the demand curve in a particular market. Let us assume that there is a sudden surge in demand because of an increase in population in that area or because of the change in income of the residents of that particular area.

The surge in demand will push the price up, which will then settle for a new demand curve, in other words, there will be a shift in the demand curve, but as soon as the inelastic supply equals the new demand, the price will again come down. The phenomenon is explained with the help of a diagram below. (Demand and Supply for Housing)

Factors Influencing Property Prices in the UK.

In the diagram shown above, there is a price rise when the price moves from P1 to P2 this has taken place due to the shift in the demand curve, where it has moved from D1 to D2, D1 stands for Demand 1. This shift may happen due to a number of factors, one of them may be a sudden increase in population, as mentioned above. As a result of a new demand curve, the price has also moved up from P1 to P2. An important point to note here is that, while the price has moved up along with the demand, the quantity sold has not changed that much, when compared. This is because of the fact that the supply for the property is always inelastic due to the time gap between the change in price and the increase in supply.

Another reason behind a change in property prices can be Mortgages. A mortgage is the money borrowed to buy a house, as for most people buying a house is not easy. Over the years mortgage market has picked up greatly and the current scenario is totally different from the one that existed in the beginning. Mortgages were supplied only by the building societies.

Building societies were non-profit institutions and encouraged only the members for the grant of loans, so the people who were members and had contributed to an extent for a considerable period of time got loans easily, and account with building societies became the only means to get mortgages. Soon these societies had to compete with the banks and other financial institutions specialized in granting housing loans. This price war resulted in a greater demand for owner-occupied houses and consequently, the demand for houses grew stronger, resulting in a substantial price increase. (The UK Housing Market – Factors Influencing the Housing Market: Mortgages)

Besides the above-mentioned factor of mortgages, there are other factors like stamp duty and planning that affect the market for housing. Mortgage interest relief at source (MIRAS) was a tax concession to owning a house. It reduced the house owner’s liability to income tax as the money spent on the interest on the mortgage was considered to be tax-free. This made borrowings cheaper and as a result, there was a huge demand for housing and the prices shot up. With the introduction of MIRAS in 1990, many people were exempted from stamp duty. (The UK Housing Market – Factors Influencing the Housing Market: Stamp Duty and Planning)

Effect of Monetary Policy on Property Prices

The bank of England has a monetary policy and uses the same to regulate the mechanism of the economy and deal with such erratic swings in the prices of property. Like when it decides to change the interest rate, the government is trying to check the overall expenditure of the economy. A change in interest rates is mostly used to contain inflation, which is the result of lavish expenditure by the country. The bank sets a fixed interest rate at which it lends money to financial institutions and depending on this interest rate, individual banks and other financial institutions set up their own interest rates, which apply to the whole economy.

The point to be noted here is that this interest rate set by the Bank of England is so effective and powerful that it chips in greatly to regulate the whole economy. It affects the stock and bond prices and also influences the asset prices throughout the country.

This interest rate also regulated the savings in an economy, which eventually results in capital formation and reinvestment. It is to note that when interest rates are high, people prefer to invest money in government deposits that are less risky in nature than the stock markets, and similarly high-interest rates boost up the savings. Lower interest rates make asset and real estate prices go up, as people start ignoring conventional saving instruments and make use of the high-growth ventures like shares and houses, which pushes up their prices. Interest rate change also affects exchange rates, as an increase in the interest rate in the UK will yield better returns to the investors compared to their overseas ventures.

This phenomenon usually makes sterling assets attractive, which pushes up the value of the currency vis a vis other currencies, and a stronger pound sterling would mean less money would be shed on imports and less quantity of exports will take place as there will a lesser demand for products made in the UK because of the currency being strong. It is interesting to have a look at the process of how the bank sets interest rates.

Movement of House Prices

The movement of the UK house prices in the last few years is shown right below in the diagram released by the Rightmove House prices. The average price of a house has moved from £1,75,000 to £ 2,29,816 now. The prices of the houses have fallen by 2.3% as per the latest August house price index released on the 18th of August 2008.

Movement of House Prices.

Conclusion and Future Movement of House Prices

The movement of the house prices has been dependent on a lot of factors. UK housing market has had a great up-move in the last decade primarily because the interest rates have not actually moved anywhere in the last 6 yrs, as they were at 4 percent in 2002 vis a vis 5 percent currently. (House Price Facts). Also, there have been easy availability of mortgage and credit which fuelled the housing market over the last many years, but going forward, the correction in the housing market is expected to last a little longer due to the stiff rates maintained by the Bank of England, as the bank is not in a position to cut rates due to high inflation, secondly the world economy as a whole is facing stiff liquidity crunch due to the sub-prime mortgage crisis of the US.

To top it all we also have a high inflation problem facing almost all the major economies. Also, due to the liquidity crunch, there are practically no buyers wanting to mortgage, and those who want credit are not getting it. The house prices may start to look up once again after a couple of years when the broader global problems are settled down.

Works Cited

“Demand and Supply for Housing” tutor2u. 2008.Web.

“How Monetary Policy Works” bankofengland. 2008. Bank of England. Web.

“House Price Facts” housepricefacts. 2008. Web.

“The UK Housing Market – Factors Influencing the Housing Market: Mortgages”. 2008. Web.

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