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Average house prices are still unaffordable for the typical earner, the UK’s largest building society has said.

Despite wages rising above the rate of inflation in recent months and house prices falling from the record high of summer 2022, “housing affordability is still stretched”, Nationwide said.

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A greater proportion of take-home pay is going on mortgage bills, according to the lender’s house price index.

Someone earning the average UK income seeking to buy their first home with a deposit worth 20% of the asking price will have a monthly mortgage bill of 37% of their end pay packet.

It’s above the long-standing average of 30%.

The mortgages affect

More on House Prices

While people have been typically earning more and house prices are 3% lower than the all-time high two years ago, rising mortgage costs have made unaffordability worse.

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Lloyds Banking Group chief executive Charlie Nunn said the era of ultra low interest rates is over. 

With high interest rates – raised to 5.25% by the Bank of England to bring down inflation – have come more expensive mortgage costs.

According to Nationwide, the interest rate on a five-year fixed-rate deal for a borrower with a 25% deposit was 1.3% in late 2021. That has soared and is now around 4.7%.

Latest official figures showed basic pay grew 6% in the three months to April, while inflation – the rate of price rises – was 2.3% in the same month. But data from living-standards thinktank the Resolution Foundation said weekly wages have increased by just £16 in 14 years when inflation is factored in.

Compounding affordability problems is the fact UK house prices are back on the rise and were 1.5% more last month compared to June 2023.

Fewer mortgages, more cash

There have been fewer house-buying transactions over the past year, Nationwide added.

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The total number of transactions is down by roughly 15% compared to the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

Higher borrowing costs have meant transactions involving a mortgage are down even more, nearly 25%.

Cash transactions, however, are up 5% on pre-pandemic levels.

The region with the fastest house price growth was Northern Ireland at 4.1% across the three months of April to June, while it became 1.8% cheaper to buy a house in East Anglia over the year, according to Nationwide figures.

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