Top of main content
UK in Focus: A different North-South housing divide

20 May 2024

Key takeaways

  • UK GDP rose at its fastest rate for two years in Q1 …
  • … while wage growth showed further resilience.
  • Meanwhile, the Bank of England opened the door to interest rate cuts a little wider.

UK data review (Jan/Feb 2024)

  • The BoE’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted by 7-2 to keep Bank Rate on hold at 5.25% at their latest meeting on 2 May. The addition of a second MPC member opting for a cut in the Bank Rate plus a further softening in their language pointed to the likelihood of a rate cut in the near future, possibly as soon as their next policy meeting (20 June). However, Governor Bailey noted that a change in Bank Rate in June was not a fait accompli nor ruled out. He pointed to the decision being informed by the data before the next meeting and alluded to some tolerance of upside surprises.
  • The day following the 2 May BoE meeting saw GDP data for Q1 released. The report confirmed that the UK was no longer in recession and, in fact, rose faster than expected in the first quarter at +0.6% (BoE and market consensus: 0.4%). While there is a risk that the data are revised as more information is obtained, the print offered a very welcome start to 2024, ending two-years of stagnation. The industrial production sector recorded the fastest growth +0.8% q-o-q – largely driven by manufacturing – while the services sector rose 0.7% q-o-q. However, less positively, construction was down 0.9% q-o-q with considerable weakness in ‘new work’ that declined by 1.8% over the quarter.
  • Meanwhile, the UK Labour Market in the first quarter was a mixed bag. The number of people employed fell (-178k) in the quarter, however, much of the decline was seen in self-employment (-119k) while the number of people in fulltime work rose (+37k). Nonetheless, the number of unfilled vacancies continues to fall from its elevated levels pointing to softer labour demand. On the flipside, the unemployment rate, despite rising to 4.3%, remains historically low: the number of people reporting as inactive, i.e. not available to work, rose to its highest quarterly level in over a decade, and pay growth was stronger than expected.
  • Housing Market RICS survey pointed to a stagnant housing market in April as higher mortgage rates added to already stretched affordability for many buyers. As such, the new buyer enquiries index cooled, falling to -1 from +6, ending three consecutive months of demand growth. Nonetheless, the new seller instructions index increased to +25, its highest level since 2020. However, with weaker demand and high interest rates, converting a listing into an agreed sale is proving more challenging.

North-South housing divide

Stronger housing market activity in the North

While activity stagnated in April, the slowdown was unequal with a north-south divide reappearing. The RICS survey reported the largest loss of momentum in new buyer enquiries across the South, while demand rose in the North and Wales. In fact, demand is higher across the North and Wales versus their 2010s average (see chart 1).

As a result, house price growth is stronger, with price rises in the North East (+3%) and North West (+1.4%) a likely reflection of relative affordability. Prices in more expensive areas such as London and the South East fell by 4.8% and 2.1%, respectively.

Stretched affordability is perhaps the most dominant driver of near-term housing market activity. High house prices relative to incomes are not a new phenomenon; based on a general 5x earnings lending threshold, house prices have been ‘unaffordable’ since the early 2000s. But now, higher interest rates are adding to the difficulty.

Higher interest rates and high prices will keep affordability stretched

Throughout the 2010s, low interest rates enabled many to increase their loan-to-income (LTI) ratio, particularly in high priced areas such as London and the South. However, more recently, LTI and loan-to-value multiples have fallen at a faster rate than house prices, yet monthly mortgage repayments have risen sharply, pointing to the impact of higher interest rates.

Notably, interest payments on new lending as a proportion of total mortgage costs has almost doubled in two years across all regions, also in part due to a lengthening of mortgage terms to help withstand higher interest rates. However, in real GBP terms, the greatest impact is being felt across the South where affordability is most stretched despite incomes falling in real terms across all regions. As such, while interest rates remain elevated, it is possible that the recovery in the housing market could see this North-South divide widen further.

Related Insights

We think the Greater Bay Area (GBA) stands to benefit from the government’s focus on “new...[19 Apr]
Exports are starting to tick up, and consumption is proving quite resilient. [2 Apr]
During this year’s National People’s Congress, ministers detailed concrete measures aimed...[20 Mar]

Disclosure appendix

Additional disclosures

1. This report is dated as at 17 May 2024.

2.  All market data included in this report are dated as at close 15 May 2024, unless a different date and/or a specific time of day is indicated in the report.

3. HSBC has procedures in place to identify and manage any potential conflicts of interest that arise in connection with its Research business. HSBC's analysts and its other staff who are involved in the preparation and dissemination of Research operate and have a management reporting line independent of HSBC's Investment Banking business. Information Barrier procedures are in place between the Investment Banking, Principal Trading, and Research businesses to ensure that any confidential and/or price sensitive information is handled in an appropriate manner.

4. You are not permitted to use, for reference, any data in this document for the purpose of (i) determining the interest payable, or other sums due, under loan agreements or under other financial contracts or instruments, (ii) determining the price at which a financial instrument may be bought or sold or traded or redeemed, or the value of a financial instrument, and/or (iii) measuring the performance of a financial instrument or of an investment fund.

Disclaimer

This document or video is prepared by The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (‘HBAP’), 1 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong. HBAP is incorporated in Hong Kong and is part of the HSBC Group. This document or video is distributed and/or made available, HSBC Bank (China) Company Limited, HSBC Bank (Singapore) Limited, HSBC Bank Middle East Limited (UAE), HSBC UK Bank Plc, HSBC Bank Malaysia Berhad (198401015221 (127776-V))/HSBC Amanah Malaysia Berhad (20080100642 1 (807705-X)), HSBC Bank (Taiwan) Limited, HSBC Bank plc, Jersey Branch, HSBC Bank plc, Guernsey Branch, HSBC Bank plc in the Isle of Man, HSBC Continental Europe, Greece, The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, India (HSBC India), HSBC Bank (Vietnam) Limited, PT Bank HSBC Indonesia (HBID), HSBC Bank (Uruguay) S.A. (HSBC Uruguay is authorised and oversought by Banco Central del Uruguay), HBAP Sri Lanka Branch, The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited – Philippine Branch, HSBC Investment and Insurance Brokerage, Philippines Inc, and HSBC FinTech Services (Shanghai) Company Limited and HSBC Mexico, S.A. Multiple Banking Institution HSBC Financial Group (collectively, the “Distributors”) to their respective clients. This document or video is for general circulation and information purposes only.

The contents of this document or video may not be reproduced or further distributed to any person or entity, whether in whole or in part, for any purpose. This document or video must not be distributed in any jurisdiction where its distribution is unlawful. All non-authorised reproduction or use of this document or video will be the responsibility of the user and may lead to legal proceedings. The material contained in this document or video is for general information purposes only and does not constitute investment research or advice or a recommendation to buy or sell investments. Some of the statements contained in this document or video may be considered forward looking statements which provide current expectations or forecasts of future events. Such forward looking statements are not guarantees of future performance or events and involve risks and uncertainties. Actual results may differ materially from those described in such forward-looking statements as a result of various factors. HBAP and the Distributors do not undertake any obligation to update the forward-looking statements contained herein, or to update the reasons why actual results could differ from those projected in the forward-looking statements. This document or video has no contractual value and is not by any means intended as a solicitation, nor a recommendation for the purchase or sale of any financial instrument in any jurisdiction in which such an offer is not lawful. The views and opinions expressed are based on the HSBC Global Investment Committee at the time of preparation and are subject to change at any time. These views may not necessarily indicate HSBC Asset Management‘s current portfolios’ composition. Individual portfolios managed by HSBC Asset Management primarily reflect individual clients’ objectives, risk preferences, time horizon, and market liquidity.

The value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up and investors may not get back the amount originally invested. Past performance contained in this document or video is not a reliable indicator of future performance whilst any forecasts, projections and simulations contained herein should not be relied upon as an indication of future results. Where overseas investments are held the rate of currency exchange may cause the value of such investments to go down as well as up. Investments in emerging markets are by their nature higher risk and potentially more volatile than those inherent in some established markets. Economies in emerging markets generally are heavily dependent upon international trade and, accordingly, have been and may continue to be affected adversely by trade barriers, exchange controls, managed adjustments in relative currency values and other protectionist measures imposed or negotiated by the countries with which they trade. These economies also have been and may continue to be affected adversely by economic conditions in the countries in which they trade. Investments are subject to market risks, read all investment related documents carefully.

This document or video provides a high-level overview of the recent economic environment and has been prepared for information purposes only. The views presented are those of HBAP and are based on HBAP’s global views and may not necessarily align with the Distributors’ local views. It has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and is not subject to any prohibition on dealing ahead of its dissemination. It is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for accounting, legal or tax advice. Before you make any investment decision, you may wish to consult an independent financial adviser. In the event that you choose not to seek advice from a financial adviser, you should carefully consider whether the investment product is suitable for you. You are advised to obtain appropriate professional advice where necessary.

The accuracy and/or completeness of any third-party information obtained from sources which we believe to be reliable might have not been independently verified, hence Customer must seek from several sources prior to making investment decision.

The following statement is only applicable to HSBC Mexico, S.A. Multiple Banking Institution HSBC Financial Group with regard to how the publication is distributed to its customers: This publication is distributed by Wealth Insights of HSBC México, and its objective is for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as an offer or invitation to buy or sell any security related to financial instruments, investments or other financial product. This communication is not intended to contain an exhaustive description of the considerations that may be important in making a decision to make any change and/or modification to any product, and what is contained or reflected in this report does not constitute, and is not intended to constitute, nor should it be construed as advice, investment advice or a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any service, product, security, merchandise, currency or any other asset.

Receiving parties should not consider this document as a substitute for their own judgment. The past performance of the securities or financial instruments mentioned herein is not necessarily indicative of future results. All information, as well as prices indicated, are subject to change without prior notice; Wealth Insights of HSBC Mexico is not obliged to update or keep it current or to give any notification in the event that the information presented here undergoes any update or change. The securities and investment products described herein may not be suitable for sale in all jurisdictions or may not be suitable for some categories of investors.

The information contained in this communication is derived from a variety of sources deemed reliable; however, its accuracy or completeness cannot be guaranteed. HSBC México will not be responsible for any loss or damage of any kind that may arise from transmission errors, inaccuracies, omissions, changes in market factors or conditions, or any other circumstance beyond the control of HSBC. Different HSBC legal entities may carry out distribution of Wealth Insights internationally in accordance with local regulatory requirements.

Important Information about the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, India (“HSBC India”)

HSBC India is a branch of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited. HSBC India is a distributor of mutual funds and referrer of investment products from third party entities registered and regulated in India. HSBC India does not distribute investment products to those persons who are either the citizens or residents of United States of America (USA), Canada, Australia or New Zealand or any other jurisdiction where such distribution would be contrary to law or regulation.

The following statement is only applicable to HSBC Bank (Taiwan) Limited with regard to how the publication is distributed to its customers: HSBC Bank (Taiwan) Limited (“the Bank”) shall fulfill the fiduciary duty act as a reasonable person once in exercising offering/conducting ordinary care in offering trust services/ business. However, the Bank disclaims any guarantee on the management or operation performance of the trust business.

The following statement is only applicable to PT Bank HSBC Indonesia (“HBID”): PT Bank HSBC Indonesia (“HBID”) is licensed and supervised by Indonesia Financial Services Authority (“OJK”). Customer must understand that historical performance does not guarantee future performance. Investment product that are offered in HBID is third party products, HBID is a selling agent for third party product such as Mutual Fund and Bonds. HBID and HSBC Group (HSBC Holdings Plc and its subsidiaries and associates company or any of its branches) does not guarantee the underlying investment, principal or return on customer investment. Investment in Mutual Funds and Bonds is not covered by the deposit insurance program of the Indonesian Deposit Insurance Corporation (LPS).

Important information on ESG and sustainable investing

In broad terms “ESG and sustainable investing” products include investment approaches or instruments which consider environmental, social, governance and/or other sustainability factors to varying degrees. Certain instruments we classify as sustainable may be in the process of changing to deliver sustainability outcomes. There is no guarantee that ESG and Sustainable investing products will produce returns similar to those which don’t consider these factors. ESG and Sustainable investing products may diverge from traditional market benchmarks. In addition, there is no standard definition of, or measurement criteria for, ESG and Sustainable investing or the impact of ESG and Sustainable investing products. ESG and Sustainable investing and related impact measurement criteria are (a) highly subjective and (b) may vary significantly across and within sectors.

HSBC may rely on measurement criteria devised and reported by third party providers or issuers. HSBC does not always conduct its own specific due diligence in relation to measurement criteria. There is no guarantee: (a) that the nature of the ESG / sustainability impact or measurement criteria of an investment will be aligned with any particular investor’s sustainability goals; or (b) that the stated level or target level of ESG / sustainability impact will be achieved. ESG and Sustainable investing is an evolving area and new regulations are being developed which will affect how investments can be categorised or labelled. An investment which is considered to fulfil sustainable criteria today may not meet those criteria at some point in the future.

THE CONTENTS OF THIS DOCUMENT OR VIDEO HAVE NOT BEEN REVIEWED BY ANY REGULATORY AUTHORITY IN HONG KONG OR ANY OTHER JURISDICTION. YOU ARE ADVISED TO EXERCISE CAUTION IN RELATION TO THE INVESTMENT AND THIS DOCUMENT OR VIDEO. IF YOU ARE IN DOUBT ABOUT ANY OF THE CONTENTS OF THIS DOCUMENT OR VIDEO, YOU SHOULD OBTAIN INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL ADVICE.

© Copyright 2024. The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

No part of this document or video may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, on any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited.