The nation's happiest homeowners

Are you well-placed to enjoy the upbeat market?

By Charlie Jacoby, January 17, 2014
Banner has launched a show home at its Bentley Priory in Stanmore. Five-bedroom Dowding House has five reception rooms, a double garage and accommodation with kitchen area above, £3.25 million to £5.6 million

Banner has launched a show home at its Bentley Priory in Stanmore. Five-bedroom Dowding House has five reception rooms, a double garage and accommodation with kitchen area above, £3.25 million to £5.6 million

Atheists, according to research last year, are smugger than people who have faith, which might explain why some faiths are considering adding smugness to their already-lengthy list of sins. But there are few as smug as London homeowners, as confidence in the property market soars to new highs. UK homeowners predict an overall average 7.2 per cent increase in property prices over the first half of 2014.

Only eight per cent of homeowners do not believe that property prices will rise between now and the summer - and in London it's only two per cent.

So a massive 98 per cent of London homeowners feel that they are sitting on a healthy, if long-incubated, nest-egg. That's the conclusion of Zoopla. The property website reports that the 7.2 per cent figure is up from 5.7 just three months ago and 3.2 this time last year, making it the most upbeat forecast in four years. Zoopla surveyed more than 7,500 UK households and found that confidence in the property market is strongest in the North of England. In Yorkshire, the Humber and the North West regions, the proportion of owners who reckon property prices will increase over the next six months has risen from 84 to 88 per cent in three months. At the other end of the spectrum, homeowners in Wales are the least bullish on house prices, with only 85 per cent predicting a price rise by June.

Lawrence Hall of says: "Across the country, homeowners are starting the new year far more positive about the health of the property market.

"Early indicators suggest that we can look forward to a busy first few months to 2014, as current levels of confidence are likely to fuel more transactions.

"With 2013 characterised by the wave of government initiatives to lure first-time buyers on to the property ladder, 2014 could be the year we see activity levels increase significantly."

"Smugness cometh before a fall," somebody could have written - and there are fears that what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given with one hand, by way of the Help To Buy scheme for first-time buyers, he could take with the other.

High-end property is a tempting target for any cash-strapped chancellor confronted with a struggling economy - it can't move to Monaco and it is owned by those with money. Even better, it is increasingly owned by those with money who can't vote because they are citizens of somewhere else.

With an election looming and a left-of-centre government looking possible, estate agents argue that property and wealth taxes are moving towards centre stage. Some are talking about a residency tax for foreign owners, others a mansion tax.

As originally floated, a mansion tax would apply to property valued at more than £2 million and would raise over £2 billion in extra revenue.

If a mansion tax is currently scaring the horses, the likely final outcome is a change in the council tax. This is a big earner, raising £25 billion per annum. After Mrs Thatcher' s political immolation by the poll tax, politicians are wary of doing this.

And then there is the old favourite, stamp duty. It made £5 billion in revenue for the exchequer last year.

In estate agent Knight Frank's latest research for the fourth quarter of 2013, prime country house prices are forecast to increase by 3.5 per cent in 2014. It predicts that location and price will have the greatest bearing on growth, with homes worth sub-£2-million and in the South East outperforming the wider market.

Meanwhile, the average price of a prime country house in the UK increased by 1.4 per cent in the final quarter of 2013.

Last updated: 6:28pm, January 17 2014