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London house prices post biggest annual decline in six years

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London house prices posted their largest annual drop in almost six years in February as high values deterred buyers.

[LONDON] London house prices posted their largest annual drop in almost six years in February as high values deterred buyers.

The average asking price in the capital fell 0.4 per cent to £641,116 (S$1.13 million) this month from a year earlier, the first annual decline since April 2011, property website Rightmove Plc said on Monday. While asking prices gained 2.6 per cent from January, that's the weakest monthly gain for a February since 2009 during the depths of the recession.

London's housing market underperformed the rest of the country during 2016 after stretched affordability, Britain's vote to leave the European Union and tax increases on investors in the early part of the year weighed on demand. 

Nationally, annual price growth slowed to the weakest in almost four years this month, signalling that potential buyers are becoming more price-sensitive as inflation erodes real incomes and concerns hang over the outlook, according to Rightmove.

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"Perhaps we're approaching the territory where many buyers are unable or unwilling to pay what sellers are asking, given the negative combination of rises in the cost of living, tighter lending criteria, and a dose of Brexit uncertainty," said Rightmove Director Miles Shipside. Values have boomed since 2013, "so it's not surprising that upwards price pressure is running on tired legs," he said.

Central London led the slowdown in February, with asking values falling 2.1 per cent from a year earlier, compared with a 1.4 per cent gain for outer suburbs. On the month, inner boroughs outperformed as owners of more expensive homes boosted the average by listing their properties for sale after a Christmas hiatus, according to Rightmove.

For the UK as a whole, asking prices rose 2 per cent to an average 306,231 pounds, the biggest monthly increase in a year. That's still the weakest February performance since 2009 and well below the 5 per cent average gain for the month over the past seven years. That meant the national annual gain of 2.3 per cent was the slowest since April 2013.

BLOOMBERG

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