UK housebuying in 2021 poised to be busiest since 2006

Photograph: Geoffrey Swaine/Rex

Figures from trade body UK Finance show prediction of Covid-era sales slump were wildly inaccurate

This year is on course to be the strongest for home-buying activity since 2006, according to the main trade body for UK banks.

UK Finance said that while the first few months of the pandemic, during which the property market shut down completely for a time, led to predictions that sales would slump, the reality was very different, with “Covid-era activity set to eclipse everything since the credit crunch”.

The figures come hard on the heels of forecasts from the property website Zoopla and other commentators that 2021 would be the UK’s busiest year for the housing market since 2007.

While official figures have shown that the number of house sales tumbled in the weeks immediately after the end of the stamp duty holiday in England and Northern Ireland, which finished on 30 September, this followed a record surge in activity during the latter half of 2020 and earlier this year.

Alongside the stamp duty holiday, the market was also boosted by a range of factors including government guarantees for mortgages and a desire for a new lifestyle prompted by the pandemic that has led many homebuyers to relocate and prioritise properties with bigger gardens and more room for working from home.

The most recent house price surveys from the UK’s biggest mortgage lenders depict a property market that is continuing to defy many experts’ expectations. Nationwide said average UK house prices continued their upwards climb in November and were now 10% higher than a year earlier, while Halifax’s latest price data is due to be issued on Tuesday 7 December.

In its latest household finance review, covering the period July to September this year, UK Finance said: “Barring a complete reversal of the current picture, purchase transactions in 2021 will reach their highest level seen since the peak in 2006, just before the global financial crisis [of 2007–08].”

The figures indicated that “the combined boost to demand from stimulus measures and societal changes has more than offset any dampening effects from Covid-19 and wider adverse economic factors”, it added.

However, with a few weeks still to go until the end of the year, and house purchase activity now less frenzied than it was earlier on in the year, the final outcome is not guaranteed. Interest rate rises – the first could come this month – could put a brake on the market, as could the new Omicron variant of coronavirus.

Looking at other aspects of people’s finances, the trade body said that levels of unsecured debt had increased in line with spending, but it added that in the main, customers were continuing to pay off their card bills on time each month. Meanwhile, mortgage arrears ticked down overall, but what were described as “heavier arrears” continued to rise.

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