It has almost has become a truism that Britain’s house prices will continue to soar.
Countless areas of research from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, estate agent Savills, the Council of Mortgage Lenders, and bank analysts have all said prices will continue to rise over the next five years. Even a study published by Santander showed average house prices across the country will more than double
to around £500,000 over the next 15 years.
So betting against UK house prices falling seems completely counterintuitive and putting money down on property prices rising seems like a sure thing right?
Well, I spoke to one person who is so adamant that property prices are going to fall on an annual basis by January 8, 2017 that he has put the probability of it happening at 54.9%.
“I appreciate that I seem totally out of line with the wider market and this could be the albatross around my neck if I get this wrong,” said Jamie Loughead, head of politics at the UK bookmaker Star Sports, to Business Insider.
“I should be making it clear that I/we don’t predict the future that this will or won’t happen but we look at the probability purely as percentages on events occurring.”
Star Sports is the “biggest bookmaker you’ve never heard of” but Loughead explains that they have a small but wealthy client base. They count footballers, “city boys” — basically brokers, traders and affluent people who work in London, and even “the odd billionaire” as customers. Star Sports regularly receives four figure bets on anything from horse racing to betting on house prices and has a turnover of £200 million annually.
Star Sports gave out these odds to clients on February 8 this year for:
- 8/11 — based on a probability of 54.9% that house prices would decrease from Nationwide’s average house price of £196,930.
- 11/10 — based on a 45.1% probability that house prices would increase on an annual basis when Nationwide releases its data on January 8, 2017.
“We put up our odds of a house price fall being ‘odds-on’ last month and within an hour the story got picked up by a news agency- shocked with our prediction,” said Loughead.
“In fact, within ten minutes of me leaving the office that day I received a phone call from a colleague telling me that we’d taken a £250 bet on house prices to rise- my colleague was stunned that my odds predicted prices to fall. He actually thought I’d typed my odds in the wrong way round! Halifax later reporting a 1.4% drop in values in February came as a welcome relief to me.”
He said following the initial release of the odds last month, Star Sports was “bombarded” with people wanting to make a bet.
However, Loughead said that since then, he is even more sure that house prices will fall, that the odds are currently at:
- 8/13 — based on 58.2% chance of prices falling.
- 5/4 — based on 41.8% chance of prices increasing.
In other words, if you put £13 down on a 8/13 bet and won, you would get £21 back. If you put £13 on 5/4 bet, you would get £29.25 back.
So how did he come to this counterintuitive probability calculation?
“When I did the initial calculation in February, there was a view that interest rates would increase. On top of that there are other various factors that have made me calculate the probability that house prices are more likely to fall,” said Loughead.
“The big one is the buy-to-let (BTL) stamp duty tax in April in six weeks or so, weak overseas investments and restrictions on Chinese investors and general global financial concerns.
“But the k
ey driver we see now as impacting things is the budget next Wednesday, which is likely to involve tax changes to BTL landlords, a reduction in Natwest’s lending (now lending 4.45 times a mortgage applicant’s salary, as opposed to 4.75 times), the continuing impact of BTL stamp duty in April and we also take account of sluggish figures in Feb — a 1.4% decrease with Halifax and just a 0.3% increase with Nationwide.
“We continue to believe that foreign investment is on the decrease, and currently impacted by minor concerns over a Brexit in June. Also weak wage inflation (partly due to the strong supply of EU labour) and global economic uncertainty.”
I pointed out that those “sluggish” figures are most likely seasonal as the peak time to buy a property in Britain is between March and August. During the winter months and during Christmas, less people look at properties due to the festive season.
However, Loughead said he took this all into account and still believes that the percentage probability still shows that it is more likely that prices will fall over the next year.
“I have gone through countless predictions (from reports) and spoken to lenders and even if you factor that in, the threats from landlords saying that the surcharge will lead to landlords selling off properties will flood the market with buy to let homes,” said Loughead.
“I believe where we are at now is a period of stagnation in house price growth, which will continue for now, and then prices will fall. It was to pluck a number from the sky right now on Nationwide’s average house price of £196,930, I would say you can take 5% off of that at the end of the year.”
Well, we will see how this fares in a year’s time. Loughead and Star Sports are even to put your money where your mouth is.