Housing market ends 2018 on a low

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December 2018 was a disappointing month for the UK housing market, with key activity indicators continuing to fall.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has revealed that enquiries, agreed sales and new instructions to sell all fell in December.

In its latest UK Residential Market Survey (available at www.rics.org), RICS notes that new instructions were in negative territory for the sixth report in a row, meaning that they have declined in 19 of the last 24 months.

Near-term sales expectations are now either flat or negative across all parts of the UK, states the report, with the headline net balance of –28% representing the poorest reading since the series started in 1999.

The survey also points to the number of properties on estate agents’ books being close to record lows, with an average of just 42 properties per branch.

Sales trends are, however, expected to improve across much of the UK over the coming year, with RICS respondents predicting growth in the North West of England, the West Midlands and the South West of England in particular.

Although house prices have been rising in some regions (notably Northern Ireland, the North West of England and Scotland) they are anticipated to either rise or hold steady across most of the UK during 2019, apart from in London and the South East.

In the words of RICS Chief Economist Simon Rubinsohn, it is hardly a surprise with ongoing uncertainty about the path to Brexit dominating the news agenda, that, even allowing for the normal patterns around the Christmas holidays, buyer interest in purchasing property in December was subdued.

“Looking a little further out, there is some comfort provided by the suggestion that transactions nationally should stabilise as some of the fog lifts,” he added, “but that moment feels a way off for many respondents to the survey.”

Last reviewed 6 February 2019

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