House prices: everything you need to know in 2020

In this comprehensive guide to house prices, we discuss how to negotiate, as well as what to expect from property prices post Covid-19

uk house prices
(Image credit: HomeOwners Alliance )

Will house prices rise or fall this year? Is the housing market really bouncing back from Covid-19, or are we to expect a property market slump by the end of 2020? And is the stamp duty holiday resulting in higher house prices? We have the answers to your questions.

Amid tightening mortgage lending practices and forecasts of an economic downturn, it is more important than ever to keep abreast of what house prices are doing if you are a potential buyers – and if you're a seller, too. This up-to-date guide to house prices 2020 will give you a good general sense of where the property market is heading – although we'll be the first to admit that it also pays to be aware of you local property market trends (we explain why below). 

  • It's more important than ever to find the best mortgage rates if you're buying a house – do this with the help of our guide

Are house prices rising or falling in 2020?

Many prospective buyers and sellers will have been confused by the latest figures released by Halifax, which show a 1.6 per cent house price surge compared to June in July 2020 ,and a 3.8 per cent annual increase. This number comes in only a few weeks after other house price data was showing a steady decline, with the first annual house prices fall (of 0.1 per cent) since 2012. How are buyers and sellers to interpret these fluctuations? 

It appears that the government's stamp duty holiday plan is paying off, at least in the short term: the cancellation of all stamp duty payments on properties up to £500,000 has inevitably resulted in a spike of buyer interest – and in sellers being able to raise asking prices, bringing up the average property price in the UK to £320,265.  

Will this mini-boom continue? Because the figures were only released at the start of the stamp duty holiday, we'll need at least another month's data to see whether the mini-boom trend in house prices will continue. It is important to also be aware of other factors that will come into play in the next few months, especially the winding down of the government's Job Retention Scheme. High unemployment numbers would depress house prices, stamp duty holiday or not. 

What is the average UK house price in 2020?

The most up-to-date average UK house price is £320,265 in July 2020.

House prices after Covid-19: what to expect

Most property experts now agree that a further slowing down of the property market by the end of 2020 is highly likely, although no one can say confidently how much further house prices will fall – or whether a modest growth is possible in light of high buyer demand and the stamp duty holiday. 

Our general advice is to pay attention to your local market – browse the most recent sold prices in your chosen area and be aware of regional trends. Obivously, areas that see higher levels of unemployment or secondary, localised Covid-19 lockdowns will see lower house prices. However, you also need to bear in mind that areas with high demand and reduced supply of housing are unlikely to see any significant reductions in house prices. This is particularly true of cities with dwindling housing stock such as London and Edinburgh, and most high-demand areas in south east England. 

House price discounts for key workers: how will they work?

You may have heard about the government pledge to secure a 30 per cent discount on selected housing for first-time buyers, with priority given to key workers such as nurses, teachers, and firefighters. The First Homes scheme will only apply to homes in new developments – about 1,500 initially – and to 25 per cent of newly build affordable housing in the future. The discount will then be passed to subsequent buyers, to prevent attempt at profiteering from the scheme. 

Price caps will also apply to this scheme, with £250,000 the upper limit outside the capital, and £420,000 inside London. Applicants will need to have a household income of no more than £80,000, or £90,000 in London. The sales of First Homes will be restricted to local buyers for the first three months after the property being put up for sale. 

How to get the best house price if you're buying

There has been much discussion about buyers' expectations of reduced house prices after coronavirus. We'll be honest and say: this isn't currently the reality in the vast majority of cases, and asking a seller to reduce the price purely out of expectations of a post Covid-19 discount won't do you any favours. As property expert Phil Spencer puts it in an interview with Hello! magazine,

'That is taking advantage of the circumstances. In actual fact, the prices have not fallen yet, so in trying to renegotiate the price you agreed before lockdown, you are asking them to anticipate a fall that hasn't happened yet. That’s quite a lot to take on board as a seller… I think it's pretty rude to instigate that conversation yourself.'

All the available data shows that, in the vast majority of cases, the pandemic has not led to a reduction in asking prices. If you want a home in a prime area and in perfect condition, and with a garden, you are highly unlikely to get much give from the seller.

If you are hoping for a reduced price, you will have to compromise on something, whether it's location, the condition of the property, or its size. If you get the sense that the current owners are keen to sell, do negotiate, but be reasonable: trying to knock off much more than 10 per cent is likely to make you sound like you're not serious about the purchase. 

You also need to budget carefully. Be aware of what costs you'll need to cover on top of the house price, and start all negotiations with that knowledge. There will be a number of initial fees such as the valuation fee and the surveyors fee, as well as the additional parties to pay such as the lender/broker fees (if first time buyer, no estate agents fees) and the conveyancer.

There are is then the fees associated with the mortgage including the booking fee, arrangement fee and mortgage valuation fee. We recommend saving an additional £2,500 on top of your deposit to cover the costs.  Please be aware that if more than one person is purchasing and they have already owned a property then stamp duty will be payable even though the other person has never owned a property anywhere in the world before.

Find out more about negotiating house prices in our guide.

Sellers: how to boost your house price

There is by now plenty of evidence that Covid-10 has shifted buyers' priorities when it comes to buying homes, and if you're selling at this point, you'll need to bear those new priorities in mind. 

Kerb appeal is becoming more important, with people considering carefully where they'll be spending the majority of their time. So, a freshly painted exterior and tidy front garden will help you secure a better house price.

Next, consider shifting work circumstances: people will want to know about potential  home office space much more than they used to, and they'll likely be interested in opportunities for extending the property rather than, say, proximity to trains. 

Fid lots of ways to add value to your home in our guide.

House prices and mortgages: what first-time buyers need to know 

The hard truth is that homes have just become more expensive to first-time buyers not because of anything to do with house prices on their own, but because of the situation with first-time buyer mortgages

As a general rule, you will now need a 15 per cent deposit to secure a residential mortgage. Technically, five- and 10-per-cent mortgages haven't disappeared completely, but their availability is by now so limited that it's very difficult to get one. 

If you don't have the resources for putting together a larger deposit, look into Help to Buy, Shared Ownership, or a guarantor mortgage

You should also speak to a mortgage broker who might just be able to find a specialist lender for your needs, or will at least give you honest advice on what you should do with the deposit you have. 

We've teamed with online mortgage specialist Habito: use their mortgage comparison tool below to see how much you could borrow. 

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