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The UK housing market: Subdued but stable

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11/05/2017
Sales are down, but prices are up as the UK property market holds steady in turbulent waters
The UK housing market: Subdued but stable

Momentum is continuing to ebb in the UK housing market as sales dip slightly and buyer interest remains flat in April, according to the Royal Insitution of Chartered Surveyors.

It found that new instructions continued to drop in April, and puts this down to uncertainty due to the calling of an early election and the ramifications of stamp duty changes.

The lack of choice for would-be buyers across the UK is still a key issue, said the RICS, and in April new instructions remained negative for a fourteenth month in a row at the national level, leaving average properties on estate agents books hovering close to record lows.

Demand flat

New buyer enquiries were unchanged nationally having failed to see any meaningful growth since November 2016. Alongside this stagnant buyer demand, respondents reported agreed sales were beginning to slip slightly following a number of months of flat transactions.

This flat picture for sales at the national level is expected to continue over the next three months, while the twelve-month outlook is more optimistic with 31% more respondents anticipating a pick-up in sales over the year ahead at the national level.

Prices robust

Despite the subdued backdrop, 22% more respondents saw prices rising in April, (unchanged from March), underpinned by the lack of stock. As such, house prices continue to rise nationally, with the pace of growth steady over the last five months, although there is variation across the UK.

In Central London, the indicator on prices has been in negative territory for 13 months. In addition, price growth has eased noticeably in in East Anglia recently and, along with the North East, was not seen to have seen any increase in April.

At the other end of the scale, in the North West 67% more respondents noted higher (rather than lower) prices in April with the reading having been above 50% in this part of the country in each of the last seven months.

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS Chief Economist, said: “Although the picture clearly does vary across the country, the bulk of the feedback we are receiving points to a fairly flat summer for both activity and prices.

“Lack of stock on the market remains a key challenge for the sector with recent and forthcoming tax changes having a material impact on transaction levels, particularly at higher price points.

“Uncertainty relating to the forthcoming general election is also highlighted by some respondents as a reason for inertia.

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