Property sales stabilise but outlook remains mixed

Nia Williams

January 18, 2011

In the three months to December, the average number of completed sales per surveyor stabilised at an average of 15.2 (from 14.8). Across the UK, completed transactions were highest in the East Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber (averages of 19 and 18 respectively). East Anglia recorded the lowest level of transactions, with an average of just 10 per surveyor.

As a result of adverse weather, estate agents reported the number of agreed sales in December fell to a net balance of -15 per cent (from -14). Concerns over the economy remain a concern for some buyers, while the lack of available mortgage finance continues to keep many prospective purchasers out of the market.

More positively, surveyors’ expectations for sales over the coming months edged up, with 8% more expecting sales to increase rather than decrease, up from 6% in November. Many respondents suggested that the market would begin to pick up again in the Spring.

Despite this slightly more encouraging outlook, lack of supply to the market continues to be an issue. New instructions fell from a net balance of -4 to -14, as potential sellers waited until the New Year before putting their property on the market.

New buyer enquiries – which signal demand for property – fell for the seventh consecutive month. Surveyors continue to report that lending constraints, particularly to first-time buyers, remains the biggest barrier to any strong improvement in the market.

Pessimism still surrounds current house prices, with 39% more surveyors reporting prices fell rather than rose in December, although this is an improvement from -44% during the previous month. Expectations for house prices over the next three months saw 29% more surveyors predicting prices would fall than rise (from -41 in November).

Commenting, RICS spokesperson, Jeremy Leaf, said: “Although bad weather hit the housing market during December sales levels have remained stable. While lack of supply, and more importantly demand continues to impact heavily, surveyor sentiment does appear more positive for the coming months.

“The key issue now is mortgage finance. However, with commentators suggesting lending constraints are unlikely to be eased, it is hard to envisage a meaningful increase in sales levels in the near term.”

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