House sales fell 10.5% in April

Christina Hoghton
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Christina Hoghton

Sales may have dipped but are still high compared to long-term average, as property market remains robust

There were 97,970 property sales in April, down 10.5% from March, according to the latest figures from HM Revenue & Customs.

The government department said home sales were down 13.9% from a year earlier.

However, the dip belies a strong property market with last month still the second busiest April for a decade, and around 10% higher than April 2019.

Comparisons with 2021 are tricky as last year saw huge sales as buyers rushed to take advantage of the Stamp Duty holiday.

Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “The vertiginous peaks and troughs in house sales have started to level out, and while they’re still at a higher altitude than before the pandemic, it raises the question as to whether we’re heading for lower ground as the market starts to slow.

“Property sales were slightly lower than in March, but we shouldn’t read too much into this, because we still saw the second busiest April in a decade. Meanwhile, we know from the latest RICS residential survey that April saw the eighth consecutive month of increasing demand from buyers, so slowing sales owe much to the fact that there was very little stock to go around.

“The big question is what happens next. There are plenty of pressures building in the market. Rocketing prices mean buyers are under increasing pressure, and rising house prices and mortgage rates will be stretching affordability ever-thinner. At some point we will see sales slow, as buyer enthusiasm cools slightly. However, at this stage we may well see gentle undulations for a while to come, before we head for lower ground.”

Nick Leeming, chairman of Jackson-Stops, added: “For the rest of the year we will see market activity start to level out relative to the frenetic pace seen in the months previous. Certainly, the first quarter of 2022 was the peak of post-pandemic related enthusiasm.

“First-time buyers at the bottom rung of the property ladder will feel the pinch of house price growth and inflation more than any other buyer type, as we watch mortgage payments outpace rents. This will start to filter up from the bottom, but not for some time yet. Downsizers and cash buyers remain fairly immune from any volatility that may be forecast, with many choosing to move house now to achieve the best possible price for their home. The Jackson-Stops network is predicting a rise in new instructions with multiple bids and record prices still common place, ruled by the scale of yet unsatisfied demand. As the market moves, sellers are choosing to move with it.”