RICS: Uncertainty stalls housing market

Michael Lloyd

December 12, 2019

The housing market is still on hold with buyers and sellers both showing a cautious approach pending the outcome of the General Election and Brexit, the November 2019 RICS Residential Market Survey has found.

Demand from prospective buyers, new instructions to sell and sales all remain in negative territory, as persistent economic and political uncertainty is deterring both buyers and vendors.

Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at RICS, said: “Confidence is critical to a well-functioning housing market and whatever happens in the General Election today, it is important that the new government provides reassurance both over the stewardship of the economy and the ongoing challenges around Brexit which continues to highlighted in a disproportionate number of remarks made by respondents to the RICS survey.”

New buyer enquiries slipped for the third month in a row in November as 9% more surveyors saw a decline in enquiries rather than a rise.

Newly agreed sales also saw a fall to -8% from -18%.

There is change expected post-Election result, with sales expectations over the next three months looking more stable with a net balance of 11%.

The 12-month outlook saw the most positive sentiment since February 2017, with +35% net balance.

Over the next 12 months, 33% more surveyors expect house prices to rise rather than fall.

Prices are expected to return to growth across all areas of the UK, with Wales and Northern Ireland leading the way.

Rubinsohn added: “Significantly despite the inevitable near-term concerns, the feedback regarding the medium-term view of the market remains surprisingly sanguine with the 12-month sales expectations indicator at its best level since the early part of 2017.”

There was a decline in rental stock coming to market, a consistent theme over the past three years, against steady tenant demand.

Rents are expected to rise modestly in the coming three months according to the survey.

Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, said: “The RICS ‘take’ on the housing market is respected more than most, not least because of its excellent track record over many years of identifying trends.

“Its latest report is no exception, confirming what we are seeing ‘on the ground’ – new buyer enquiries and listings lower than last month but not falling as quickly as previously, despite significant political and seasonal distractions.

“What we have also noticed, which is unlikely to be picked up by national surveys for a while, is the quiet determination of increasing numbers of realistic buyers and sellers to take advantage of improved affordability and a little more confidence in market prospects for 2020.”

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