Surveyors report ‘upbeat’ housing market

Christina Hoghton
Written By:
Christina Hoghton

A rise in the number of sales agreed is being driven by London and East Anglia

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has suggested the housing market has become more “upbeat”, after its latest market survey revealed agreed sales moved into positive territory for the first time since May.

In total nine per cent more surveyors reported a rise than a fall in agreed sales during December, compared to a reading of minus six per cent in November.

London and East Anglia saw the strongest improvements here, with net balances of 22 and 23 per cent respectively.

There was also a sharp turnaround in new buyer enquiries, with a balance of 17 per cent more surveyors reporting an increase, compared to minus five per cent in November. RICS found that the majority of UK regions saw a rise in enquiries, led by Wales and the North East.

Near term sales expectations improved for the third report in a row, with a net balance of 31 per cent of respondents now predicting transactions will rise over the next three months.

Extending that to 12 months sees the figure jump to a balance of 66 per cent of respondents, compared to 35 per cent last month.

Instruction and price improvements

The survey also found that a balance of nine per cent of surveyor respondents saw a pick up in new instructions, though outside of London and the South East these were more or less flat.

On house prices, a balance of minus two per cent reported rises, though this was an improvement from the -11 per cent last time around.

Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at RICS, said whether the post-election improvement in sentiment could be sustained remained to be seen, with the eventual Brexit deal playing a role.

“However, the sales expectations indicators clearly point to the prospect of more upbeat trend in transactions emerging with potential purchasers being more comfortable in following through on initial enquiries,” he continued.

Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent and former residential chairman of RICS, argued it was important not to get carried away by the positivity, though accepted they reflect “quite a big turnaround” from the more downbeat tone of RICS’ reports over the last year.

He added: “We don’t expect prices to increase sharply because affordability remains stretched, particularly in most of London. But certainly we have seen much more of the ‘why not’ stance rather than the ‘why’ attitude we were encountering just a few months ago.”