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Fewer Home Movers Slowing the Housing Market

Why the shortfall?

There is a new phenomenon which is affecting the housing market, it’s a nasty case of the “missing mover” – this is where mortgaged homeowners are choosing not to move up the housing ladder, opting to stay put instead. To put this into context, in the UK, prior to the recession there were 1.6 million home sales every year. This figure fell dramatically to 860,000 in 2009, recovering to around 1.2 million at present.

Why has this figure not rebounded to pre-recession highs? New research1 suggests that these “missing movers” account for about 320,000 of the annual housing transaction shortfall. The research indicates several reasons for the decline in home movers, including the fact that at present there are fewer mortgaged owners than ten years ago. These mortgaged owners tend to be older and therefore much less likely to want to move home.

An example of how the effects of an ageing population filter through to the property market; as their desire to move has diminished. Around 140,000 of these missing moves can be attributed to a fall in the rates of moving among mortgaged home-owners. The research suggests that the availability of sufficient equity is the number one factor restraining the mortgaged mover rate. In addition to this lack of equity, are the secondary limiting factors – such as the lack of availability of the right home to purchase. The researchers deduce that it is not the present situation of fewer movers, but the past situation where numbers were inflated, which is the extraordinary circumstance.

For over 50 years the property market has undergone changes that provided a massive boost to the ability of people to buy and to own their own homes. An expectation of returning to those conditions is simply unrealistic. Interestingly, the report concludes that: “The challenges of the future must be tackled on the basis of the context in which we find ourselves today. That is one of low interest rates, relatively low inflation, high and rising house prices relative to the incomes of prospective home-owners, and an ageing population. From our analysis, this combination is unlikely to unlock broad-based equity building or provide much scope for more relaxed lending. Perhaps fresh, novel policies will emerge that facilitate more moving in the current much-changed economic environment. However, in their absence we should expect the foreseeable future movement among mortgaged home-owners to remain constrained.”


1Council of Mortgage Lenders, 2017