BRITAIN’S housing market is like food in a microwave, says Spencer Dale, the chief economist at the Bank of England. It can “turn from lukewarm to scalding hot in a matter of a few economic seconds”. Since the crisis the bank has gained new tools to control the market’s temperature. Now that the heat is rising, it may soon start testing them out.
Until last year house prices were rising predominantly in prosperous central London boroughs. That was largely because of an influx of cash-rich buyers, says Neal Hudson of Savills, an estate agency. People saw posh property in the capital as a shelter from economic turmoil abroad. Elsewhere in Britain, the housing market was torpid. Potential buyers struggled to find mortgages. Falling real wages, economic uncertainty and the memory of plummeting house prices during the crisis curbed Britons’ obsession with property.