Page last updated at 11:57 GMT, Friday, 19 December 2008

Lenders axe house price forecast

Martin Ellis
No forecast this year, says the Halifax's chief economist

Two of the UK's biggest mortgage lenders, the Halifax and the Nationwide, have decided not to make any house price forecasts for 2009.

They publish the UK's most widely followed and long standing house price surveys each month.

Normally they forecast prices for the coming year as well, but the Halifax said it was "not appropriate" due to its impending takeover by Lloyds TSB.

The Nationwide said it was simply too difficult at the moment.

"Things are changing so rapidly in the market, which makes it very difficult to forecast," said a Nationwide spokeswoman.

"When things have settled down a bit we may be in a position to review this next year," she added.

Falling prices

The Halifax is in the throes of an enforced rescue takeover by Lloyds TSB which is due to be completed on 19 January.

House price graph

"HBOS will no longer exist next year so it's been decided it's not appropriate to make a forecast," said the Halifax's chief economist Martin Ellis.

"We don't know what Lloyds' view [of the market] is; they may not want to use our forecasts," he added.

House prices have gone through a record slump this past year under the impact of the credit crunch and subsequent mortgage drought.

This has seen sales fall by more than half.

No one expects the trend in sales and prices to end soon, with official industry forecasts pointing to a further big decline in lending in 2009.

Mr Ellis made it clear he expected prices to continue falling for the time being, a view echoed earlier this week by Victor Blank, chairman of Lloyds TSB, who said he thought there might be a further 10% fall.

On Monday the chief executive of Barclays, John Varley, said he thought that prices might eventually drop by as much as 30% from the peak seen in the middle of 2007.

Surveys

The Halifax's monthly house price survey has been published since 1983, with a now traditional forecast at the end of every year for at least the past decade.

The Nationwide, whose database goes back to 1952, started publishing its monthly survey only in 1991.

But it had been publishing quarterly surveys since 1977, with the first annual forecast coming in 1988.

"We have never experienced conditions like this before," explained a spokeswoman for the society.

However the society has shunned making an annual forecast before, in 1992 and 1993, in the depths of the last house price slump.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) has already taken a similar stance to the two lenders, declining this week to make any forecast of next year's house prices because it would be "futile" while the market is so inherently unpredictable.

One consideration for the industry is that predictions of further big falls may become a self-fulfilling prophecy, undermining the confidence of potential buyers who might be afraid of a fall in the value of their homes.



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