Client Weekly Update – Friday 19 August

House prices slowing

Jersey’s booming housing market could be showing tentative signs of cooling – after the cost of an average three-bed home dropped for the first time in two years amid a continued slowdown in overall price rises. 

Although prices across all property types remain high and out of the reach of many Islanders, the House Price Index released on Thursday shows that the extent of the rises has slowed in the three quarterly periods up to this spring.

In the final quarter of 2021, prices were 18% higher than the same period in the previous year, but this dropped to 16% in the following quarter (January to March) and 10% in the second quarter when compared to the same period in 2021. And the cost of an average three-bed home dropped by £45,000 to £853,000 during the second quarter.

However, all other property types once again increased in value.

Housing Minister David Warr said: ‘It’s very difficult to make a general assumption but a correction does appear to be on the cards and the signs are the trend in the rate of increase in house prices has been dropping each quarter recently’. 

‘Even at a slower rate, prices continue to increase for most property types, with record average prices for one and two-bedroom flats and two-bedroom houses. And the turnover of house sales was 26% higher than when it was last measured three months ago’.

Deputy Warr added: ‘Today’s figures reflect decisions people took six months ago, before the war in Ukraine, the interest rate rises and the cost of living increase. We won’t be able to make any clear call on the trends until the end of this year when the last quarter figures come out in January 2023.’

Reform Jersey leader Sam Mézec urged the government to take decisive action now on the cost of buying a home to prevent a ‘housing crisis’ creating ‘terminal decline’ on the Island. 

He said: ‘Jersey is facing a terminal decline, because young people are leaving the Island as they feel they have no hope for the future here’. 

‘A couple on the average salary wouldn’t be able to afford to buy an average home here. I hear of lots of university students who won’t come back because of the housing costs and if they do, they soon leave again when they realise they can’t afford to buy a home here.’ 

He added that even ‘affluent older people’ who lived in larger homes they bought long ago were now ‘terrified their children and grandchildren will leave the Island because they don’t have access to the same opportunities to buy a house as their parents did.’

Deputy Warr said they did not want anyone to feel they needed to leave Jersey in order to buy their first home and that the government was working hard to develop their response to the shortage of houses. 

He added: ‘Things are on the move. We are now building twice as fast as we have in the recent past and there’s an awful lot of housing stock due to come onto the market. But the effects of the war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis and the increase in interest rates are not baked into the figures yet. We will have to wait until next January to have a clear picture of the trends.’

3km Bird Flu protection zone established

A 3km Bird-Flu protection zone is being enforced to try to halt the spread of a ‘ruthless’ virus after numerous cases were confirmed at a farm in St Peter resulting in all its birds being culled. 

The zone came into force just after midnight last night and means that all bird-keepers within the area are required to house birds or keep them isolated from other commercial, domestic and wild birds. 

The rest of the Island falls into a surveillance zone, where housing and separation of birds is highly recommended by government veterinary officers. Plans are also now in place to protect local flocks by culling feral hens and cockerels living in the St Peter’s Valley area.

The farmer at the centre of the outbreak, Jeremy Hughes, said he had been waiting anxiously for the results of samples taken at weekend from his birds, which died suddenly overnight, and his remaining 18 birds – free-range ducks, geese, turkeys and hens – had also now been culled.

Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf said: ‘I’m thankful to the farmer in St Peter for contacting the department so quickly at the weekend and for their co-operation at what must be an incredibly difficult time.  

‘We need the support of keepers across the Island to help reduce the likelihood of bird flu spreading here. While housing of birds will be mandatory for those within the protection zone, those in other parts of the Island are strongly recommended to house their birds too’.

Deputy Renouf added that it was crucial to prevent wild bird faeces from entering poultry housing and runs, so a solid or impermeable overhead roof was essential.

‘Increased biosecurity measures will also play a key role in preventing the spread of bird flu and owners should use disinfectant baths for their footwear at the entrance to flock units,’ he added. 

Jersey’s deputy chief veterinary officer, Caroline Terburgh, again urged all poultry owners by letter to house their birds as soon as possible. 

She said: ‘We’ve witnessed how ruthless the virus is in causing mass mortalities and suffering within a flock, the unpleasant process of culling different bird species on the premises, potential testing of other mammals present on the farm, and the cost of a hobby or livelihood to small, and large-scale commercial farmers.’

She added that all bird shows, pigeon racing, falconry displays, bird imports and exports were suspended.

Buy Now Pay Later Schemes Criticised

The UK’s financial watchdog has warned companies offering “buy now pay later” schemes that they could be committing a criminal offence over misleading and harmful adverts. 

“Buy now pay later” adverts – which allow consumers to buy products on credit and pay for them at a later date – could be misleading consumers by failing to warn of the risks of taking on debt they cannot afford to repay, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said.

The FCA raised concerns over financial adverts on websites and social media, including “influencers” promoting such products, that could be breaching regulatory rules. 

Firms need to ensure consumers, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances, are equipped with the right information at the right time, so they can make effective, timely and properly informed decisions. 

Iceland foods were recently criticised for offering such schemes however the chain faced backlash over the move, with MP Stella Creasy criticising Iceland for “exploiting” customers and failing to protect them if they build up debt, she said in a Tweet. 

This is deeply disingenuous, offering customers a BNPL option to pay for food isn’t helping during the cost of living crisis. 

Its exploitation makes consumers spend more to spread the payments and there is a clear lack of consumer protection to manage the debt they rack up.

In a statement this week, the FCA reminded retailers that they must comply with financial promotion rules or they risk committing a criminal offence.

Top marks for Jersey Students

Jersey students achieved an overall pass rate of 98.9% in this year’s A-level results, once again outperforming their counterparts in England. 

Data released by the government has shown that the Island’s overall pass rate was 0.5% higher than in England, with this performance also reflected in grade statistics. 

A or A* star grades were achieved by 37.8% of Jersey students, compared with 35.9% in England, while the figures for passes at grade C or higher were 87.5% (Jersey) and 82.1% (England).

Results for other qualifications have also been announced. Highlands College students studying for BTECs achieved an overall pass rate of 96%, with 92% of students having already secured their future in either employment or further education.

Students who took the International Baccalaureate at Hautlieu School achieved a pass rate of 100%, compared to a worldwide rate of 85.6%.

Children’s and Education Minister Inna Gardiner congratulated students on their achievements and thanked parents and teachers for their support and commitment. 

She said: ‘It is clear how hugely committed our students are to their education, and the excellent results are testament to their hard work.’ Deputy Gardiner urged students wishing to discuss their next steps to contact their school or college, or Skills Jersey.

Tigers on the Prowl

The lions have been, so have the Sharks, Eddie Jones and his England team, and now the Tigers are back in town!

Jersey Reds will begin their 2022/23 campaign with a pre-season friendly at home this evening against recently crowned Premiership champions Leicester Tigers, [KO 5pm]. The mainland side, clinched the title in dramatic fashion against Saracens last season when replacement fly-half, Freddie Burns, scored a last-minute drop-goal. 

Reds Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon said: ‘We’re really excited at the prospect of testing ourselves against the Tigers once again. Having the English champions running out on our home ground will be a fantastic way to start the season, and this fixture is already standing out in our schedule’. 

The fixture will mark the fourth pre-season meeting between the clubs since the Reds attained Championship status – however, it will be the first occasion the Island side have welcomed a reigning Premiership champion side to the Stade Santander.

Biljon’s side hosted the Tigers last year also, where the away side won 17-7 in front of 1,700 spectators – which the Reds will hope to surpass this season. The Caesarean side will also play host to more pre-season Premiership opposition in the shape of London Irish (27 August) and Bath Rugby (2 September). 

The Reds will look to integrate several new squad additions into the side during the stern pre-season tests, as they gear up for their opening Championship fixture away to Ampthill on Saturday 10 September.

Mixed Markets

The FTSE 100 closed down 20.31 points, or 0.3%, at 7,515.75. The FTSE 250 index ended down 309.37 points, or 1.5%, at 20,027.04. 

European markets are mixed to lower. Shares in Germany are off as the DAX drops 0.35%. The CAC 40 is down 0.22%.

Yesterday’s equity markets traded on either side of unchanged with the S&P 500 up 2pts to 4,276 (+0.1%), and the Dow Jones was down 89pts to 33,891 (-0.3%). The NASDAQ Composite Index was up 27.22 points or 0.21% to 12965.34

Shares in Hong Kong are lower today as the Hang Seng falls 0.03%. The stock markets in Tokyo and Shanghai are closed at this time.