UK homeowners notched up more than £800bn in additional value to their properties last year on a combined basis, taking the total worth of housing stock to a record £8.4tn, according to new analysis.
Strong demand from buyers amid the coronavirus pandemic and government stimulus meant average prices rose more than 10 per cent in 2021, estate agency Savills estimated.
It was the largest ever annual increase in value, providing a major windfall for homeowners but also freezing out a growing number of first time buyers.
Against a backdrop of low interest rates, the pandemic has unleashed more homeworking, and spurred demand for larger properties with gardens outside of city centres. Inner city flats have been less in demand.
Many buyers were spurred into action by chancellor Rishi Sunak’s stamp duty holiday, introduced in June 2020 and running until the end of last September. The tax break gave buyers a saving of up to £15,000 and is widely regarded as having motivated or accelerated decisions to purchase properties.
But given evidence that demand and prices were rising before the stamp duty holiday was introduced, it has been criticised for adding fuel to an already-hot market and providing a tax break to the wealthy. About half of the savings from the £6.4bn scheme went to people buying properties worth more than £500,000.
“The stamp duty holiday and low interest rate environment created extremely strong market conditions in 2021, encouraging many to move who perhaps wouldn’t have otherwise,” said Lawrence Bowles, a director in Savills’ residential research team.
“But, over and above that, people’s lifestyle needs and housing preferences hugely shifted over the course of the pandemic, with many reassessing what they want out of their living environment in response to increased working from home and the need for more inside and outside space.”
The fastest value growth last year came in areas where affordability was least stretched and where larger homes with outdoor space were more readily available.
In percentage terms, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland recorded the largest gains, with the total value of housing stock rising by 12.5 per cent in 2021 to £878bn across the three nations, Savills estimated.
In England, the largest proportional gains were in the south-west, where the value of housing stock increased 11.9 per cent to £789bn.
The lowest were in London and the south-east, where prices rose 7.4 per cent and 10.9 per cent respectively.
But there remains a gulf in average house prices between London and the south-east and the rest of the UK.
The value of homes in London hit £1.9tn last year, with average prices approaching £530,000. That is almost three times the average price in the north of England, of £186,000.
Over the past decade, the value of UK housing has increased by 75.7 per cent, or £3.6tn, Savills estimated.
Gross median pay for workers in the UK has increased 26 per cent over the same period, according to the Office for National Statistics.