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It has been another busy month for the housing market, our case numbers were up 30% compared to last February and the average monthly house price rise in March was 1.7%, the highest growth at this point in the year since 2004, driving the annual rate of price increase to an astounding 10.4% (Rightmove, 2022). Yet the supply-demand imbalance remains the main driver for this price growth, and we suspect these high enquiry levels are a result of the changing base rate environment as households seek to secure competitive mortgage rates ahead of further rate rises. This trend of rising rates further was confirmed last week when the MPC announced the base rate was to increase by 0.25% to 0.75%. The cost-of-living crisis continues to squeeze household budgets, and this looks set to worsen this year with planned tax rises for April and rising interest rates feeding into mortgage costs. Furthermore, after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the world is facing the biggest commodities shock in decades triggered by a combination of conflict and sanctions, impacting energy prices and disrupting wheat supplies, and moreover igniting fear and uncertainty globally.
With a recession on the cards and inflation predicted by some analysts to peak this October at a staggering 9.5% as a consequence of the war and energy price cap changes – a 2.25% increase on the peak initially expected in April from CPI projections – many households will be looking to cut down their household bills and prepare themselves against future cost rises, including making their homes more energy efficient (FT, 2022). As a result, some households may make more sustainable choices and install greener equipment into their homes with the aim to save money on household bills, especially their energy costs, as fuel prices reach record highs this March at 178.97p and 167.03p for diesel and petrol respectively* (RAC, 2022). We suspect also there will be a growing demand for properties with higher EPC ratings as people seek out more energy efficient homes which cost less to heat, which simultaneously, may incentivise more households to make their homes greener when they come to sell. These factors will all inadvertently help the country take a step towards reaching national emissions targets, and with around 15% of the UK’s emissions coming from our homes, this is a positive outcome to what is otherwise a difficult situation for many.
The cost-of-living crisis will lead to many households feeling the squeeze, thus larger households may be prompted to sell, unable to keep up with the cost to heat their houses yet providing much needed housing stock for larger family homes. We have already noticed more people looking to capital raise on their properties, frustrated in their house search by the limited housing stock, choosing to stay put and see how they can convert their existing properties to meet their requirements instead. As EPC ratings become an important selling factor, people may look to retrofit their homes and remortgage to make their homes more energy efficient, thus increasing the number of green features in households such as heat pumps, cavity wall insulation and smart meters. In the long run, its plausible that demand will naturally grow for more energy efficient homes, the challenge of climate change becoming more prominent, and homeowners seek to do their bit and choose more energy efficient homes, in particular younger generations who hold a greater value on their environmental impact.
Likewise, we suspect the growing demand in green housing will feed through to mortgage products as lenders look to reward green homeowners with more favourable terms. For instance, they may offer more competitive fixed rate products if you make certain green home improvements or change their affordability assessments where they consider a household’s cost savings on their energy bills. According to Leeds Building Society, 57% of advisers stated there was a significant increase in the demand for green mortgages over the past three months compared to last year (FT Adviser, 2021). Green mortgages offer households of energy-efficient homes with certain EPC or energy efficient ratings more favourable terms in the form of lower interest rates or cashback. These activities will be welcomed too by banks and stakeholders alike as this helps them meet their own sustainability targets. Lastly, we hope to see this increase in demand incentivise more product innovation by lenders, making green mortgages more competitive and accessable to borrowers.
* Figures correct at the time of writing.