UK house prices jump by 10.9%, could speed up further: Nationwide – ET RealEstate

LONDON: British house prices jumped by an annual 10.9%, the most in nearly seven years, and they look set to accelerate further as people seek new homes after the pandemic, mortgage lender Nationwide said.

Almost seven in 10 homeowners considering a move said they would be doing it even without the extension of a tax incentive by finance minister Rishi Sunak, Nationwide said, citing a survey it conducted in late April.

Shifting housing preferences were “continuing to drive activity, with people reassessing their needs in the wake of the pandemic,” Nationwide’s chief economist Robert Gardner said.

Tuesday’s figures are the latest to show the scale of the surge in house prices which hit a new record high at an average of 242,832 pounds ($345,355.67), according to Nationwide.

Bank of England Deputy Governor Dave Ramsden said in an interview published on Tuesday there was a “risk that demand gets ahead of supply and that will lead to a more generalised pick-up in inflationary pressure.”

“We are looking carefully at the housing market and a raft of real-term indicators,” he told the Guardian newspaper.

Nationwide said house prices were 1.8% higher than in April.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected prices to rise by 9.2% in annual terms and by 0.8% from April.

Nationwide said there was scope for annual house price growth to accelerate further in the coming months, given how weak the housing market was in early stages of the pandemic.

But if unemployment rises sharply later in 2021 – when Sunak’s jobs protection programme is due to expire – there was scope for activity to slow, perhaps sharply, it said.

Less timely but broader official data from the Office for National Statistics has shown that house prices in March jumped by just over 10%, the largest annual rise by that measure in nearly 14 years.



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KPMG switches to flexible working plan for UK staff – ET RealEstate

LONDON: KPMG on Thursday announced new flexible working plans to allow its UK staff to work in offices up to four times per fortnight from next month as Britain loosens coronavirus restrictions.

The global accountancy firm has followed other corporate giants such as HSBC and Proxima in offering hybrid working patterns to its workforce during the pandemic.

KPMG’s 16,000 UK staff will be able to come into its offices for in-person work, meetings and training, with the remaining working hours spent at home and client sites.

Employees will also be given an extra two-and-a-half hours off per week during the summer months, which staff can choose to take in the morning or afternoon.

KPMG UK chief executive Jon Holt said: “We trust our people. Our new way of working will empower them and enable them to design their own working week.

“The pandemic has proven it’s not about where you work, but how you work.”

A March survey of KPMG UK’s staff indicated that 76 percent enjoyed the greater flexibility of homeworking, 65 percent felt they had a better work-life balance, and 87 percent liked not having to commute.

“Our offices will become a place people go to collaborate and learn,” Holt said.

“The pandemic means we have a cohort of people who have never been in the office and coached face-to-face — we need to get those connections back.”

A poll of 20,000 adults by think-tank Demos in December 2020 suggested 79 percent of people working from home preferred to continue doing so to some extent even after lockdown restrictions eased.

But there are fears that permanently switching to remote and hybrid working will hollow out city centres as hospitality and retail businesses suffer from lower footfall.

Britain has been one of Europe’s worst-hit countries by the pandemic, with nearly 128,000 deaths from the virus, but it now has a roadmap to unlock the economy following months of lockdown measures and a successful vaccine rollout.



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UK house prices jump by most since 2004 as tax break extended – ET RealEstate

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LONDON: British house prices jumped by 2.1% in April, their biggest monthly rise in more than 17 years, after finance minister Rishi Sunak unexpectedly extended a tax break on property sales, figures from mortgage lender Nationwide showed on Friday.

House prices are 7.1% above their level a year earlier and close to December’s growth rate of 7.3%, which was the highest in nearly six years after COVID lockdowns boosted demand for more spacious housing.

“Just as expectations of the end of the stamp duty holiday led to a slowdown in house price growth in March, so the extension of the stamp duty holiday in the Budget prompted a reacceleration in April,” Nationwide chief economist Robert Gardner said.

Stamp duty, the main tax on property purchases, will not be payable on house purchases up to 500,000 pounds ($696,650) made before the end of June, and the first 250,000 pounds of property purchases will be tax-free until the end of September.

The tax break had been due to expire at the end of March.

As well as a rise in property prices, the tax exemption contributed to a sharp increase in the number of property sales last year.

Nationwide said there was scope for house prices to rise further in the coming months due to a fairly fixed supply of housing and a continued desire to move as a result of the COVID pandemic, which reduced demand for small city-centre homes.

But Gardner said activity could slow later this year, perhaps sharply, if unemployment picked up as most economists predict.



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UK: Student housing provider Unite Group sells eight properties for $183 million – ET RealEstate

BENGALURU: Unite Group said on Tuesday it had sold eight properties for 133 million pounds ($183.15 million) to Aventicum Real Estate, as the British student housing provider turns its focus to high- and mid-tier universities.

Unite, which reported a wider 2020 pre-tax loss of 120 million pounds earlier this month, had said it was targeting 200-300 million pounds worth of asset disposal in 2021 in the hopes of improving liquidity position.

“This (disposal) is in line with Unite’s stated strategy of aligning to high and mid-tier universities where demand is highest,” the company said on Tuesday.

The latest disposal, which comprises 2,284 beds, includes assets in Coventry, Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Exeter and Manchester, with only the sale of the Manchester property yet to be finished and that is expected in the second half of 2021.

Unite’s Chief Executive Officer Richard Smith said the sale of the eight properties would help the company achieve its operating profit margin target of 74% by 2023 end.

Earlier this month, Unite forecast a return to full occupancy and rental growth in the upcoming academic year, saying students were keen to get back to campus life.

Unite’s shares were up 1.7% at 1,088 pence, as of 0926 GMT.



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