United Kingdom

UK housing boom cools as prices fall in June - Halifax

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Property sold signs are seen on windows of a group of newly built houses in west London, Britain, November 23, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Files

LONDON, July 7 (Reuters) - Britain's housing market boom showed some signs of cooling in June as prices fell in monthly terms for the first time since January ahead of the scaling back of a tax break for buyers, mortgage lender Halifax said on Wednesday.

Prices were 0.5% lower than in May, Halifax said. In annual terms, they stood 8.8% higher than in June 2020 after leaping by the most in 14 years in May when they rose 9.6%.

"It is important to put such a moderate decrease in context, with average prices still more than 21,000 pounds ($29,000)higher than this time last year, following a broadly unprecedented period of gains," Halifax managing director Russell Galley said.

Last week, rival lender Nationwide said its measure of house prices showed a 13.4% leap between June 2020 and June 2021, the biggest increase in over 16 years.

Britain's housing market has been spurred on by finance minister Rishi Sunak's COVID-19 emergency tax break for buyers many of whom were already seeking bigger properties as they increasingly work from home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The tax exemption on the first 500,000 pounds of any property purchase in England or Northern Ireland expired at the end of June. A 250,000 pound tax-free allowance will run until the end of September.

Galley said demand from people looking for bigger homes would not fade entirely as the economy recovers and the shortage of properties on the market would also support prices.

"However, we would still expect annual growth to have slowed somewhat more by the end of the year, with unemployment expected to edge higher as job support measures unwind, and the peak of buyer demand now likely to have passed," he said.

Prices in London rose by a below-average 2.9% in annual terms in June, slowing from May. All other regions of the United Kingdom, except for the Midlands, saw prices rise more quickly than in May.

($1 = 0.7240 pounds)

Reporting by William Schomberg; editing by Michael Holden

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