British house price boom to fizzle out next year: Reuters poll

By Jonathan Cable

LONDON (Reuters) – British home prices will rise 2.0% this year following a post-lockdown boom in the housing market, according to a Reuters poll, marking a sharp turnaround in views from a 5.0% fall predicted three months ago.

Britain’s economy shrank more than 20% in the second quarter after the government forced businesses to close and citizens to stay home, but it is expected to rebound with 15.8% growth this quarter as some restrictions have been relaxed.

The lockdown meant people spent more time indoors and a dash for larger homes and gardens pushed up prices in September, a survey by property website Rightmove showed last week.

That chimed with other surveys that have shown a post-lockdown surge in the market, also helped by a temporary cut in property tax.

Prices will rise 2.0% this year, the Sept. 15-25 poll of 22 property experts showed, but stagnate next year after the tax break finishes and due to an expected spike in unemployment following the closure of the government’s furlough scheme.

“Those who have been hit medically or financially by COVID-19 will have bigger issues to worry about than moving for a bigger garden,” said property market consultant Henry Pryor.

“We may well run out of a pool of buyers prepared and able to move for lifestyle reasons as the flood of negative headlines about the true cost of the pandemic to individuals and the nation starts to become clearer.”

When asked about the risk of the recent surge in prices reversing by the end of the year, respondents were split, with nine saying it was high, seven saying it was low and three saying very low. None said it was very high.

“Sellers are achieving a record share of their asking price, and while this metric isn’t directly correlated with house price growth, it points towards a strong market where price falls are unlikely,” said Aneisha Beveridge at estate agents Hamptons International.

However nearly 80%, or 14 of 18, analysts who responded to an additional question said the risk to their forecasts was to the downside. In a worst case scenario prices will be flat this year – albeit very different to the 11.0% median fall given in June – and fall 3.3% in 2021.

Prices in London, long a hotbed for foreign investors, will flatline this year but recover 1.0% next year and rise 3.3% in 2022. In a worst case they will fall 1.0% this year and 5.0% next, the poll showed.

“London is the only part of the UK where house prices are not rising and affordability has crept in,” said Tony Williams at property consultancy Building Value.

When asked to describe the level of house prices in the capital on a scale of 1 to 10 from extremely cheap to extremely expensive, the median response was 8. Nationally it was 6.

Another distraction for forecasters is that Britain’s transition period after leaving the European Union is due to expire at the

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Trump Asks Reuters Reporter To Take Off Face Mask During White House Briefing

KEY POINTS

  • White House correspondent Jeff Mason asked about The Atlantic’s article on Trump when the exchange took place
  • Trump openly thanked two other correspondents who took their masks off before asking questions
  • Masks have been a point of contention with Trump since the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S.

President Trump found himself in an awkward back-and-forth with a reporter during a Labor Day press briefing over the reporter wearing a mask.

The reporter was Reuters’ White House correspondent Jeff Mason, who asked Trump about The Atlantic article alleging he made disparaging comments about U.S. soldiers who died during World War I. Trump asked Mason to remove his mask, saying he was “muffled” and couldn’t understand the question, leading to the awkward moment.

“Thank you, Mr. President. The issue of what happened when you were in France continues to be,” Mason said.

“You’re going to have to take that off,” Trump said, cutting Mason off. “Just – you can take it off. You’re – how many feet are you away?”

“I’ll speak a lot louder,” Mason said.

“Well, if you don’t take it off, you’re very muffled,” Trump responded. “So if you would take it off, it would be a lot easier.”

“I’ll just speak a lot louder,” Mason said. “Is that better?”

“It’s better,” Trump said. “Yeah. It’s better.”

While Trump regularly finds himself at odds with member of the press, it is the first time he appeared to take issue with one wearing a mask during a White House press briefing. This seemed to be reinforced when Trump openly thanked two other correspondents who took their masks off before asking their questions.

“You sound so clear, as opposed to everybody else, where they refuse,” Trump said to one correspondent.

It isn’t the first time Trump found himself the target of criticism over masks during the coronavirus pandemic. He is regularly seen without one, whether it’s in the White House, campaigning ahead of the 2020 election, or visiting other states to meet with their respective officials. One of the few times he was seen with one was in July after saying he was “all in” for masks after months of criticism for his apparent refusal to wear one.

Trump’s stance also bled over to many supporters who were seen at various events and rallies without masks.

Perhaps the most notable was the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota, where thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts packed the town and were regularly seen without masks. However, seven states were subsequently hit by coronavirus surges that health officials traced back to the rally. 

Some of the art US President Donald Trump brought back from Paris was put on display in the White House Oval Office Some of the art US President Donald Trump brought back from Paris was put on display in the White House Oval Office Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / POOL

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