Property experts give verdict on 0.5% interest rates cut

Michael Hunt

The Bank of England's decision to cut interest rates by a further 0.5% has come as largely welcome news to property professionals.

Some commentators believe this latest development calls for sensible loan-to-value ratios with income multiples to be made available to buyers.

Miles Shipside, commercial director at Rightmove, said: "Property is becoming an increasingly attractive investment. Rightmove saw email enquiries to agents increase by 120% in February, compared to the same period last year.

"The interest rate cut is obviously good news for both those homeowners on tracker mortgages and those looking to move. However, for the market to return to a state of normality we would repeat the need for sensible loan-to-value ratios and income multiples to be made available to buyers, at reasonable interest rates."

Some property specialists echo this view as James Thomas, head of residential development and investment at Jones Lang LaSalle, comments: "Today's decision to cut interest rates to 0.5% will be positive news to homeowners on variable rate mortgages, although lenders have indicated that they are unlikely to pass the full benefit on to borrowers."

However, Thomas is cautious about the decision and what it will mean for first time buyers. He added: "Given that banks have little appetite for new lending it will make little difference to homebuyers hoping to enter the market, whose main difficulty is actually securing a mortgage. The housing market is likely to remain weak given the continuing global economic turbulence, uncertainty in the labour market and shattered consumer confidence.

"Mainstream house prices are expected to fall by another 13-15% this year and a further 1-3% in 2010 before recovering in line with the pick-up in the economy. Economic activity is expected to stabilise next year, though this is dependent on the effectiveness of the policies now in places – fiscal policy, interest rate cuts, the package of banking support measures and an improvement in the availability of credit."

The 0.5% interest rate cut by the Bank of England is an all-time low and although some suggest it may boost money supply to help revive the economy, others within the commercial property industry are sceptical.

Fergus Hicks, head of forecasting and economics at Jones Lang LaSalle, said: "Occupier demand for commercial premises is being hit hard by recession in the economy. Occupiers are reducing headcounts and implementing cost control measures, which means that expansion is off the corporate agenda.

"The recession is also forcing occupiers to dump secondary space back on to the market, deepening the downturn. We expect commercial rents to fall approximately 25% from their peak in early 2008 by end 2011.

"The investment market continues to suffer from a lack of credit and increased risk aversion by investors. We expect yields to peak this year before stabilizing in 2010 and reduce from 2011 onwards as credit markets gradually improve. A positive yield gap will make commercial property attractive at this stage."

Interest rates have now been reduced six times since October, and the latest half a percentage point cut from January's 1% had been expected.

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