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How did the Olympics affect house sales?

Demand for housing reduced slightly but committed buyers took advantage of quieter streets to secure homes

The housing market underwent an overall decrease in activity in July, according to the National Association of Estate Agents(NAEA).

NAEA agents attributed this slowdown to the start of the Olympic events in London at the end of the month which proved a distraction for prospective buyers and sellers during the traditionally quiet summer holiday period.

The average agent in July had 293 registered house hunters, down slightly from 294 in June. Supply was also down slightly, with agents reporting an average of 61 properties on their books, compared to 63 in June.

The percentage of sales being made to first time buyers also decreased from 19 per cent to 18 per cent. Despite these decreases, sales remained at an average seven per branch for the fifth consecutive month.

Mark Hayward, President of the NAEA, said: “As anticipated, the build-up and opening few days of the main Olympic events in July had a negative impact on activity in the UK housing market. Particularly in the London regions, our agents found that many buyers and sellers were opting to postpone viewings and completions on properties until late August and into early September.

“The drop in first time buyer levels is a continuing concern for the NAEA especially in light of recent announcements from some of the major high street lenders that detail increases in rates on some mortgage products We are hopeful that the appointment of Mark Prisk as the new Housing Minister will signal a more concrete commitment of support from Government to ensure more noticeable and sustainable improvement in the housing market.”

However, activity varied across the country. Between 27 July and 12 August, the number of property sales agreed by London estate agents Marsh & Parsons rose by 23 per cent compared to the same period last year. The number of sales agreed was also 35 cent higher than during the same 17 day period in 2010.

Peter Rollings, CEO of Marsh & Parsons, said:  “While many potential buyers were glued to their televisions and seats at venues rather than out viewing homes, London’s housing market didn’t grind to a halt by any means. The traffic chaos and logistical problems feared in the run up to the Games thankfully failed to materialise, and a corps of committed buyers moving with urgency actually took advantage of quieter streets to secure homes. In fact, with roads emptier than usual for this time of year, buyers actively looking to purchase homes ahead of the traditionally busier post-summer holiday period found getting to and from viewings a much smoother process.”