Unemployment – the Secret Driver of the Hounslow Property Market?


If you have been reading my articles on the Hounslow 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 (whose name shall remain nameless) has had no effect on the Hounslow property market (or 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. Yet 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 Hounslow 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.

If we look at the national picture since 2004, there has been an inverse relationship between unemployment and housing transaction levels (i.e. as unemployment rose nationally in 2008/09 – housing transactions dropped – yet as the national economy started to improve in 2011, unemployment dropped and housing transactions increased) yet Hounslow has bucked that trend in the last few years.


Property transactions in Hounslow dropped by 62.19%, whilst unemployment in Hounslow rose by 51.89% during the 2007 to 2009 Global Financial Crash


Whilst outside the M25 there has been a link between unemployment and housing transactions, this is not the case in Hounslow from 2016 (and most of London as whole in fact when I checked the stats for other Borough’s in the capital).

In future articles, I will explore the unique nature of the Hounslow (and London) property market compared to the rest of the UK, but to finish off this week’s article, I want to discuss how we as a country (and indeed here in Hounslow) 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 Hounslow – feeding that habit!) Yet, 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 Hounslow home. Now of course, I am not dismissing the current levels of Hounslow house prices – we just 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 whilst 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 Hounslow … don’t make your judgement on house price growth alone.