There are five potential buyers chasing every property on the market as demand continues to outstrip supply, research showed today.
The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) said its members had an average of five house hunters registered with them for every property they had on their books during October.
But the high level of demand failed to translate into increased sales during the month, with estate agents selling an average of 7.7 properties each, down from 8.5 in September.
There was also a slight reduction in potential buyers, with estate agents reporting a dip in the number of house hunters on their books to 287, down from 294 in September.
The decline is in line with reports from other surveys which have shown that the rate at which new buyers are entering the market may be slowing.
It has been suggested that this, combined with more people putting their properties up for sale, may help to ease the current mis-match between supply and demand, which has forced up house prices in recent months.
But there were few signs of more properties coming on to the market during October, with estate agents seeing their average stock levels dip to 57 per branch, the lowest level since July 2007 and down from 62 in September.
Gary Smith, president of the NAEA, said: "There is strong demand for property and more optimism in the housing market than we have seen for months. This is good news for the recovery of the market and for the UK economy in general.
"Many buyers are at the very beginning of the house buying process and this is creating a lack of properties in the short term.
"It is now up to the Government and the banks to do more to keep the momentum of market recovery going."
He called on the Government to extend the current stamp duty holiday on properties costing up to £175,000, which is due to finish at the end of the year, when the value of homes on which the tax is not charged drops back to £125,000.
He said: "The danger is that this short-sighted policy could precipitate an unwelcome pause in the housing market at the start of the New Year.
"We can only hope that common sense will prevail and that the Government will raise the lowest level at which stamp duty will apply to £175,000 for an indefinite period."
First-time buyers accounted for 22 per cent of sales agreed during October. This was down from 26 per cent in September, but more than double the 10 per cent in October 2008.Reuse content