Lacklustre March for UK housing market says latest RICS report

Expectations for year-ahead sales growth were reduced in eight of the 12 UK regions or countries covered by the survey

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The Independent Online

The number of homes sitting on estate agents' books has fallen to a record low amid a lack of impetus in the housing market, according to a report.

On average, branches now have only 43 unsold properties, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

The report also showed new home buyer enquiries remaining flat for a third successive month and surveyors cutting their sales growth forecasts.

Strong inquiries growth in areas like Northern Ireland and the South-west, and a moderate rise in London, were offset by slumps elsewhere.

The Office for National Statistics reported earlier this week that house prices rose 5.8 per cent in the year to February, roughly half the rate of growth seen before last year’s Brexit vote.

Before the referendum, the Treasury forecast that house prices would be 10 to 18 per cent lower over two years than otherwise, implying stagnating house prices to 2018.

During March, 3 per cent more respondents to the RICS survey saw a fall in agreed sales rather than a rise, despite an uptick in sales across Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The national near-term sales outlook also appears subdued, with a balance of 12 per cent of respondents anticipating an increase in sales, compared to 16 per cent previously.

“The latest results for the RICS survey show little change in the underlying picture surrounding both sales and markets,” said Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist.

The survey also showed that the lack of supply in the market continued to prop up prices, but the rift between London and the rest of the UK is still widening.

“Prices in central London have progressively deteriorated and at negative 49 per cent, the net balance was the weakest since 2009,” RICS said in the report.

Further ahead, sales expectations over the next 12 months were cut in the most recent survey, with 24 per cent more respondents predicting a rise than a fall – down from 37 per cent more in February.

Expectations for year-ahead sales growth were reduced in eight of the 12 UK regions or countries covered by the survey.