What's going on?
Growth in the US and UK housing markets slowed towards the end of 2018, according to various data out last week, as banks offered fewer would-be homeowners mortgages that’d let them own the roofs above their heads.
What does this mean?
In December, US home sales slumped to the lowest in three years and house prices grew just 3%, the smallest increase since February 2012. Across the Atlantic, the number of mortgages written by British banks in December fell to its lowest since March 2014 – and loans for first-time home buyers were near a five-year low, according to the Financial Times.
Why should I care?
For markets: Politics scares homebuyers on both sides of the pond.
Typically, the US and UK are two nations separated by a common language – but misery loves company and political turmoil is no different. The US government shutdown, which, on Friday, was temporarily halted in its fifth week, is putting stress on the housing market: around 25% of recently surveyed real estate agents cited the shutdown as a reason for people pulling out of property purchases. And in the UK, it appears that fears of Britain leaving the European Union without a deal are weighing heavily on potential homeowners. A no-deal Brexit could cut house prices by 5% and sales expectations are the lowest since 1999. That’s quite the cinderblock to swallow if you’re considering investing in bricks and mortar by buying a home.
For you personally: Cheap debt, cheaper homes?
With interest rates at near-record lows, there’s an opportunity to snap up a home with cheap debt (if you’ve got the deposit). But with a potential slump in home prices on the horizon, buying now could be a double-edged sword. If prices stop growing and begin sinking, then waiting a few months to buy at a lower price could mean a smaller mortgage to pay off. When you’re borrowing hundreds of thousands, even a 1% decrease in price can be substantial to your personal profit – or loss (tweet this).