It’s one of the most commonly asked property questions.

Is now a good time to buy a house?

Whether you’re a first-time buyer eager to get on the ladder or an existing homeowner looking to up or downsize, there isn’t a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. It’s a big decision and one that requires a lot of careful thought, consideration and research into the market.

To help, our conveyancing solicitors take a look at some of the potential pros and cons of making the move in 2024 in this blog.  We certainly don’t have a crystal ball, but according to industry experts, a few positive changes could be on the horizon.

5 mortgage and house price predictions for 2024

1. House prices in 2024 may drop

Despite an abundance of gloomy predictions, the housing market held up pretty well in 2023.

Fears of a house price crash simply didn’t materialise. According to the latest figures from Nationwide, the average value dropped by around 1-2% (in the year up to November). And it’s believed that house prices in 2024 will go down again – rather than up.

Of course, it’s important to keep things realistic. We’re highly unlikely to see huge ‘bargain’ decreases. Most lenders and housing portals predict a modest 1-2% drop over the next 12 months. Plus, data from the Land Registry shows that even a 7.5% reduction would only take prices back to where they were around 2 years ago (in January 2022). But for cash-strapped first-time buyers, any reduction is positive news.

2. Mortgage rates have peaked

Things appear to be looking up for borrowers.

Following that ill-fated autumn statement in 2022, mortgages have skyrocketed over the last couple of years. But after three consecutive holds in the Bank of England base rate, and a falling rate of inflation, all the signs indicate that mortgage rates may have (mercifully) passed their peak.

According to recent data, the average 5-year fixed mortgage has now dropped below 6% – to 5.11%.

Again, it’s important to be pragmatic. The cost of borrowing is likely to drop much more slowly than it rose, and mortgages will remain expensive for some time. But a downward trend is predicted to continue throughout the new year – which can only be a good thing for those looking to buy.

3. It’s still a buyer’s market

It may come as no surprise that the housing market in 2023 was slow.

Combine a cost of living crisis with soaring mortgage rates, and it’s little wonder that property sales dropped – with sales down 22% year-on-year. Houses also took a lot longer to sell, with most taking an average of 66 days to find a buyer (compared to an average of 45 days a year ago).  And whilst experts have predicted a partial recovery in sales, the outlook for 2024 is pretty similar.

Buyers still have the advantage.

According to Zoopla, buyers achieved an average 5.5% discount on asking prices in November 2023. And sellers going to market in 2024 need to be realistic about how much they’re likely to get.

4. Marathon mortgages will be commonplace

Historically – due to the age limit on loans – long-term mortgages of 35-40 years were only available to the youngest buyers. But this could change in 2024. Lenders have now started to increase their maximum borrowing age to 75, meaning such ‘marathon’ mortgages could become more common.

In fact, recent FCA data shows the number of people taking out mortgage terms lasting 35 years or longer more than doubled between 2018 and 2022 – presumably, to help reduce monthly payments.

With affordability still an issue, this trend is likely to continue into the new year.

5. The impact of the general election

Previously, the uncertainty surrounding a general election has been enough to persuade people to delay their house move – but this shouldn’t be the case in 2024. The housing market has already proved its resilience, shrugging off Brexit, COVID-19 and the succession of prime ministers in 2022.

The general election may, in fact, be a positive change for first-time buyers.

It could bring about new property interventions. Seeing as the closure of the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme in March 2023 was met with a mixed reaction, it wouldn’t be surprising to find both the current government and other parties proposing a new crowd-pleasing first-time buyer intervention.

Should you buy, sell or stay put?

In truth, there’s no perfect time to buy a home.

From a slow property market to stubbornly high mortgage rates, there are both pros and cons to making the move this year. But it’s important to keep in mind, these are only housing market predictions for 2024 predictions being the operative word. Nothing is certain, and ultimately, the right decision for you will come down to your personal circumstances.

Whether you’re buying or selling (or doing both), it’s also crucial that you factor in the cost.

Annual data shows the average cost of moving house is now more than £14,000 – with a large chunk of this spent on conveyancing fees. So if you do decide to go ahead, it’s worth shopping around, comparing quotes and getting the best value property solicitor for the job.

Think this could be the year for you?

Time to contact St Helens Law.

As a leading conveyancing solicitor, we have a highly experienced and knowledgeable team, who can guide you step-by-step through the full property buying process – ensuring completion is reached with minimal stress, minimal delays and (importantly!) minimal expense.

We understand how difficult the housing market can be – particularly with the current house prices and mortgage rates. Which is why we strive to be as competitive and transparent as possible.

Unlike many firms that work on an hourly basis, we charge a fixed fee. Full details of this can be found in our residential conveyancing guide. But to give you an idea, our fees for a property up to the value of £250,000 start from just £500+ VAT. We’ll give you an initial bespoke quote, and if any unexpected costs arise throughout the process, we’ll discuss this with you first.

An initial consultation is also available with our conveyancing solicitors free of charge.

So where’s the harm in getting in touch? Whether you’re committed to making a move in 2024 or still weighing up your options, simply give us a call on 01744 742360 to speak with a member of the team. Or if you prefer, fill out our online contact form and we’ll respond as soon as possible.