Is the Brighton and Hove property market running out of steam?

Posted on Monday, January 17, 2022

Is the Brighton and Hove property market running out of steam?

In recent articles on the Brighton and Hove property market, I have been talking a lot about house prices over the last 12 months and 5 years in Brighton and Hove.  


When it comes to newspapers talking about the property market, the headline most people look at is what is happening to house prices.


However, as 2 in 3 (65.1%) of Brighton and Hove home sellers are also home buyers, the price is almost irrelevant. Let me explain.


If your property has gone down in value – the one you want to buy has also gone down in value – so you are no better or worse off (and if you are moving up market – which most people do when they move home – in a suppressed property market the gap between what yours is worth and what you will buy gets lower … meaning you will be better off).


Many property commentators (including myself) consider a better measure of the health of the property market is the transaction numbers (i.e. the number of people selling and buying).


Let’s take a look at the numbers for Brighton and Hove.


The average number of properties sold in Q1 (Jan/Feb/March) between 2008 and 2020 was 323 properties per month, whilst Q1 in 2021 saw 482 properties sell on average per month (boosted by the March stats where an eye watering 690 homes sold). This meant …


49.4% more houses sold in the Brighton and Hove area in Q1 2021 than the 14-year average.


The average number of properties in Q2 (April/May/June) between 2008 and 2020 was 318 properties per month, whilst Q2 in 2021 saw 312 properties sell on average per month, meaning …


1.8% less houses sold in the Brighton and Hove area in Q2 2021 than the 14-year average.


Finally, whilst the exact stats for Q3 2021 for our local authority won’t be published by the Land Registry for a couple of months, I can make certain calculated assumptions from the national data published by HMRC. The number of property sales for our local authority area in Q3 (July/August/September) between 2008 and 2020 was on average 410 properties per month. However, using the HMRC data, I calculate there will only be 295 properties sold on average per month in Q3 2021. This means …



27.9% less houses sold in the Brighton and Hove area in Q3 2021 than the 14-year average.


One of the two main drivers of activity in the housing market in the latter half of 2020 (meaning Q1 figures were better than the long-term average) was the battle for space, with many Brighton and Hove buyers seeking larger properties to work from home. The second was the short-lived tax relief measures such as the cut to Stamp Duty Tax meaning property prices were at an all-time high.


But what also might surprise you is the number of people buying for the first time.


1 in 4 mortgages since lockdown have been for first-time buyers (25.12%)


Brighton and Hove first-time buyers, buoyed by parental help with their deposits, the Government’s 5% deposit mortgage and ultra-low borrowing costs, have also helped to push house price growth since the start of 2021. In fact, if you split down house price growth between second time (third time etc) buyers and first-time buyers, the national annual house price inflation for first-time buyers is 9.2% compared to 8.1% for the second or third etc buyers. 


Yet, the Q3 2021 Brighton and Hove property market was worse than the long-term Brighton and Hove average (in terms of property transactions)


The question is – should we be worried?


The UK economy continues to deliver a benevolent framework to the British housing market. 


The labour market has outstripped expectations with the millions expected to join the dole queue at the end of furlough failing to materialise and with the number of job vacancies on the rise.


Of course (and I mentioned a lot in my recent posts), the Bank of England is projected to increase interest rates to dampen inflation in the coming months, with further small rises predicted over 2022, so I do expect the demand for property to cool off as mortgage borrowing costs increase. 


Normally such rises in mortgage costs would mean less property would sell, yet nothing over the last couple of years has been normal.


Many Brighton and Hove property homeowners have held back putting their property on the market in the last 6 months because they were afraid, they would sell their own home but not find another to buy – thus making them homeless (nothing could be further from the truth – yet that is what a lot of people incorrectly believe).


If the Brighton and Hove property market slows and interest rates rise, mortgage costs will still be very low by historical standards.


Also, if the obstacle of raising the 5% deposit can be overcome by first-time buyers plus a confidence that existing homeowners won’t be made homeless because of a cooling property market, many more people could be tempted to enter the property market by placing their property for sale first …


… thus opening up the market to more buyers – which in turn will drive up transaction numbers back to their normal 14-year average. However, raising a deposit is likely to remain the primary obstacle for many.


If you are a Brighton and Hove homeowner or first-time buyer and want advice, please call 01273 56 77 66.


2022 is going to be an interesting year ahead for the Brighton and Hove property market – only time will tell if this will be a brief respite or is it running out of steam?