Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Era of Falling U.K. Mortgage Costs May Be at an End

Muted wage growth means muted house-price inflation

The era of falling mortgage costs may be over.

Swap rates, which banks use to price their home loans, have been rising since September and are now at levels last seen before Britons voted to leave the European Union on June 23.

That's in spite of the Bank of England cutting its benchmark interest rate to a record-low 0.25 percent on Aug. 4 in attempt to shore up the economy from any fallout from the Brexit vote.

Market yields are rising on stronger-than-forecast U.K. growth and fears that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump plans to unleash a wave of spending that will fan inflation. The five-year sterling swap rate, the fixed payment needed to receive a floating rate for five years, climbed to 1 percent on Monday. It was as low as 0.39 percent in August.

 “Mortgage rates therefore now have hit a floor and might soon edge up,” said Samuel Tombs, chief U.K economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics in London.

Rates on many mortgages have fallen to their lowest in at least two decades since the Brexit referendum, giving a renewed push to the U.K. property market. Lender Halifax said house prices jumped 1.4 percent in October, the biggest increase in seven months.

But a pickup in home-loan costs is only one of the factors that will weigh on the housing market next year, according to Tombs. Others include affordability constraints as Bank of England limits on high-leverage mortgages start to bite.

Here's Tombs's outlook for property values next year:

 “Future house-price growth looks set to be linked much more closely to income growth than to rising leverage. With wage growth unlikely to pick up in response to higher inflation and employment growth on a slowing trend, we therefore still expect house prices to rise by just 2 percent in 2017.” 

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