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Unemployment - the Secret Driver of the Runcorn Property Market?

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Thu 23 May 2019

Unemployment - the Secret Driver of the Runcorn Property Market?

If you have been reading my articles on the Runcorn property market recently, you will see that in the three years since the referendum of the 'B' word (that word is banned in our household), we have proved beyond doubt that it has had no effect on the Runcorn property market nor the UK as a whole.

So one might ask, what does affect the property market locally? Well, many things on the demand side include wages, job security, interest rates, availability of mortgages, confidence in the economy, inflation, speculative demand, the list goes on. As my blog readers will note, I like to delve deeper into the numbers, and I have found an interesting correlation between unemployment and the number of properties sold (i.e., transactions).

Why transaction levels and not house prices? Well just looking at Runcorn house prices as a bellwether has flaws. Many property market commentators and economists believe transaction numbers (the number of properties sold) give a more accurate and candid indicator of the health of the property market than just house values alone. The reason is twofold. First, most people when they sell also buy, so if property values have dropped by 10% or risen by 10% on the one you are selling, it would have done the same on the one you are buying - meaning to judge the health of a property market is very one dimensional. Secondly, the act of moving is very much a human thing. Property habitually conveys a robust emotional connection with homeowners - a connection that few would attribute to their other investments like their savings or stock market investments. Moving home could be described as a human enterprise, moving from one chapter of one’s life to another. When people move home, it shows they are moving forward in their lives, and so this gives a great indicator of the health of the property market.

Looking at Halton’s figures on the graph, you can see an inverse relationship between unemployment and housing transaction levels.
 


 

Property transactions in Runcorn dropped by 65.68%, while unemployment in Runcorn rose by 53.9% during the 2007 to 2009 global financial crash

There is clearly a relationship between conditions in the Runcorn job market and the number of people who move home; interesting, don't you think?

 

 
Year Unemployment % Rate in Runcorn and Halton Number of Properties Sold in Runcorn and Halton
2004 6.0 2677
2005 5.5 2312
2006 6.7 2601
2007 6.7 2576
2008 8.4 1303
2009 10.3 884
2010 9.5 914
2011 10.2 915
2012 9.9 1000
2013 8.3 1353
2014 6.2 1629
2015 5.2 1596
2016 5.1 1675
2017 4.8 1927
2018 4.5 1841


Now I am not saying unemployment is the only factor influencing the Runcorn property - but it has to be said there is a link.

As a country (and indeed here in Runcorn) over the last 40 years, we have seen a shift in the outlook over the purpose of housing and the development of the religion of following house prices (and I appreciate the irony of me writing these articles on Runcorn - feeding that habit!). When did owning a home turn from buying a roof over your head to an out and out investment vehicle? I do wish people would stop fretting about their intrinsic value being associated with their Runcorn home. Now, of course, I am not dismissing the current levels of Runcorn house prices - we have to take into consideration other metrics alongside them when judging the health of the property market locally.

One final thought, looking on a broader scale in the UK, those towns and cities whose property markets bounced back after the global financial crash had high levels of employment and low unemployment while places with high unemployment and relatively low employment have, on the other hand, typically underperformed.

So the next time you are considering a house move or buying a buy to let property in Runcorn, don't make your judgment on house price growth alone.