Gloomy surveyors report ‘noticeable’ falls in both sales and buyer demand as prices rise

Buyer sentiment and sales activity have fallen back to levels last seen in the aftermath of the EU referendum, surveyors claim.

The RICS this morning said that last month 20% more surveyors reported a dip rather than a rise in new buyer enquiries, the weakest figure since July 2016, the month after the Brexit vote.

Sales volumes also slumped, with 15% more surveyors seeing a dip rather than a rise.

When broken down regionally, London and the south-east were at the forefront of the decline in sales, but weakness in transactions was widespread during September. Surveyors in only  Wales and the south-west reported an increase in sales.

Looking ahead over the next three months to a year, surveyors expect more of the same with respondents a little more optimistic about sales volumes in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

New instructions to sell were stable for the second month running, having declined continuously for the past 18 months. Stock per branch averaged 43.3.

Sales prices also went up slightly, with 6% more surveyors reporting a rise.

However, price rises were not reported in London and the south-east, with a number of RICS agents reporting these markets to be over-priced.

Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist for RICS, said: “It was always questionable to talk about the housing market as a single entity but the stark divergence in key readings from the latest RICS survey demonstrates in the clearest possible terms just how important the regional narrative is at the present time.

“In part, this is a reflection of affordability constraints hitting the higher priced segments of the market. It is perhaps also indicative of a shift in economic momentum in the face of the increasing possibility of the first hike in base rates in over ten years.

“That said, we are continuing to see evidence of shortage of stock both in the new-build and second-hand market. And despite the announcements at the recent Conservative Party conference, it is hard to envisage this changing any time soon.

“Against such a backdrop, prices in general are likely to remain elevated, and indeed, as the survey indicates, continue to rise over the medium term in most parts of the country.”

Looking at the lettings market, interest from prospective tenants edged up during September with 10% more respondents noting a rise rather than a fall in demand.

However, landlord instructions declined alongside this, meaning listings have not seen any growth in 14 months.

There were 310 responses to the latest RICS survey, covering 571 branches.

Typical comments included:

“No autumn bounce” (Michael Brooker Estate Agents, Crowborough, Sussex);

“Potential sellers will not market their homes because there is little for them to buy. Lenders turning on the tap would help” (David Lewis of Stags in the south-west); and

“Lack of supply to the market” (Michael Hodgson, Sunderland).


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