UK mortgage approvals fell to their lowest level in 18 months in July - meaning house prices could fall by five per cent next year

Emma Haslett
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If house prices fall, millennials will no longer be forced to sleep on roofs (Source: Getty)

The number of mortgages approved fell to their lowest level in 18 months in July, suggesting house prices could fall considerably by the end of 2017, the British Bankers' Association (BBA) has said.

Figures by the BBA showed 37,622 mortgages were approved in July, down from 39,763 in June and 41,620 in May. It's an impressive slide since January's 23-month high of 46,386.

The BBA put the slide down to new stamp duty rules on buy-to-let homes - specifically, the rush to push transactions through before the three per cent hike came to effect in April. Since then, the market has experienced something of a quiet period.

Read more: Mapped: House price changes in each London postcode since the Brexit vote

But it added the figures suggested house prices could be about to fall - it reckons prices could "ease back" by three per cent in the final few months of 2016, before falling another five per cent in 2017.

"We believe housing market activity is likely to be limited over the coming months and prices will weaken as heightened uncertainty following the UK’s vote to leave the EU weighs down on consumer confidence and willingness to engage in major transactions, and also hampers economic activity," it said.

"The fundamentals for house buyers look likely to soften over the coming months with unemployment rising and purchasing power softening. Unemployment will probably move higher as business react to a more uncertain and worrying outlook. Additionally, consumers’ purchasing power will likely be increasingly squeezed as inflation is lifted by a weakened pound and companies look to clamp down on pay as they strive to save costs in a more difficult environment."

What does that mean for housebuilders? Shares in all the FTSE 100-listed builders were up this morning after Persimmon unveiled strong sales figures yesterday.

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, pointed out that the figures could be explained by the time of year.

"July and August are always traditionally quieter times of the year for the market; the real test will come in September when people get back from holiday. Then we will see whether they are making decisions to buy or whether they put these on hold until there is further clarity."