Residential transactions were subdued in August, falling by 0.9% year-on-year according to the latest HMRC property transaction figures.
Despite the decline, the 99,890 residential transactions reported last month is a monthly increase of 15.8%.
Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: “Transaction numbers remained fairly subdued in August on a year-on-year basis, despite HMRC showing a significant fluctuation compared with July.
“But a steady market is what you would expect for the time of year – with the added spectre of Brexit looming, buyers and sellers didn’t have to look far for an excuse not to do anything but sit on their hands.
“Business has picked up as we have moved into the Autumn with people coming back from their holidays more willing to get on with things.
“Lenders are still competing fiercely for a relatively modest pool of business so rates remain cheap. Borrowers still have lots of choice, even if supermarket banks such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco are pulling out of the lending market.”
Joshua Elash, director of property lender MT Finance, added that certainty with Brexit and stamp duty reform is needed for an uptake in transactions.
He added: “Residential transactional volumes are down year-on-year as the sector continues to suffer from an overly-aggressive stamp duty regime and broader macro-economic uncertainty.
“The market needs a catalyst in the form of either visibility on the Brexit end-game or stimulus in the form of stamp duty reform.
“This is evidenced by the contrasting increase in volumes in commercial property, which is subject to different stamp duty levies.
“If HMRC wants to generate greater revenues, it needs to encourage greater transactional volumes by reforming or rolling back the stamp duty regime on residential property.”
Adrian Moloney, sales director at OneSavings Bank, commented that as Autumn approaches the slight upturn in activity is good news for the sector.
Moloney said: “While it’s too soon to suggest that this increase in transactions is a sign of what’s to come, the market is showing some form of resilience.
“For buyers and landlords with capital, there are bargains to be had, and it appears that many are abandoning the wait and see approach in favour of just getting on with it.
“Mortgage rates are very competitive, employment is high and earnings have improved, so there are reasons to be positive.
“As we reach the tail end of 2019, we continue to wait for any sign of commitment from the government to boost activity in the market, and this has to start with an increase in the number of houses built.
“Until buyers receive some clarity, we are unlikely to see a return to form.”
Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, was also slightly optimistic about the figures.
Leaf added: “Although it is always dangerous to take one month in isolation, they do show continuing market resilience as buyers and sellers look beyond political uncertainty in the hope that it will now be relatively short lived.
“However, the numbers also demonstrate that transaction times and chains are lengthening, which is what we are seeing on the ground.”