As a nation, the UK is obsessed with investing in residential property. You only have to look at your TV guide to see a plethora of property shows. There's an auction one, a makeover one, a 'move to the country' one and just about every other rehash you can imagine of one of these formats.
It is understandable though, given that many people have fared incredibly well out of rising house prices, often through no skill whatsoever. But, can this continue forever?
This house price inflation has created wealth, however, it has also resulted in a fairly large skew towards residential property in terms of the percentage of private individuals' wealth that is tied up in it. Some people have almost all of their personal wealth invested in residential property, which can be a dangerous 'all eggs in one basket' scenario.
It also means that consumer confidence in the UK, because of the impact that property prices have on how wealthy we feel (the so-called 'wealth effect'), is also heavily impacted by rising or falling property prices. If consumers feel less wealthy, they will spend less. If consumers spend less, the economy suffers. So, it is worth watching if the current trend in slowing asking-price growth continues and if we start to see consumer confidence surveys play catch-up.
So, here are three questions for you:
1) How badly impacted will your life goals and aspirations be if house prices were to fall circa 20%, as they did in the financial crisis?
2) How capable are you of weathering a 1, 3 or 5% rise in your mortgage payments?
3) How much of your overall wealth is tied up in the residential property market?
These are important questions and you should feel comfortable with your answers to all of them.
As multi-asset investors, we invest across a range of asset classes, seeking to find a blend of assets that will protect our clients' money in the worst of times and grow it in the better. We avoid putting too many eggs in one basket, so to speak, and even within asset classes, we will diversify across geography and business type to spread the risk. Liquidity is also a very important part of our investment process and we try to invest in assets that can be realised quickly, in the event that our clients and investors need or want access to their money. It's not so easy to sell a house, especially when there are no buyers, or mortgages are hard to come by. Bear in mind that past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance and you may get back less than you originally invested.
Finally, spare a thought for the those who aren't lucky enough to own a property. Affordability for first time buyers is at a record low and in London, the figures are especially worrying.
According to a Lloyds Bank survey released last week, London house prices are now nearly 12 times average earnings. In 1996, the average price to earnings ratio in the capital was 3.9, which has now risen to 11.6. The most affordable borough in 2016 was Bexley (7.4) followed by Havering (7.7). The question is, is this a bubble or a trend that will continue?
The growth in house prices has slowed to the lowest rate in almost four years as sellers were warned against overpricing their properties. Rightmove’s index of asking price for properties found that the annual rate of growth was just 2.3pc, the lowest since April 2013.