Brexit fears see house sales fall for ninth month in a row

house sales

The housing market continues to slow because of Brexit uncertainty, with the number of new sales falling for the ninth consecutive month.

A monthly residential survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors found that newly agreed sales were down in April. There were fewer new properties on the market last month than at any time since June 2016.

The national house price net balance came in at -23 per cent last month — the same as in March, signalling,another moderation in headline house prices over the month.

The survey, which polls more than 400 estate agents at more than 700 branches, is used by the government and the Bank of England as an indicator of market conditions.

Agents were downbeat about the prospect for a pick-up in sales soon, with respondents predicting flat or declining volumes across all parts of the country in the next three months.

The survey found that asking prices were becoming more realistic. More than 60 per cent of estate agents surveyed said that properties listed at up to £500,000 were sold at a price at least level with the asking price, up from 57 per cent six months ago.

Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at the institution, said: “Although there are signs of greater realism on pricing from vendors, there is little conviction in the feedback from respondents to the survey that activity in the housing market will pick up any time soon. Although new-build is generally performing more strongly than the existing market, the challenging narrative around housing is likely to have some impact on the delivery pipeline, making it harder to meet the ambitions for supply the government has set itself.”

Respondents said they were concerned that the government’s proposal to change the law so that landlords would have to prove grounds for eviction would encourage more of them to leave the market.

Halifax numbers don’t add up, say critics

Questions were raised about the reliability of Halifax house price figures after the mortgage lender said that prices had risen by 5 per cent in the three months to April, compared with last year (Philip Aldrick writes).

Hansen Lu, at Capital Economics, said he was “sceptical” about the data and Samuel Tombs, of Pantheon Macroeconomics, claimed that the pace of growth was “implausibly strong”.

Nationwide Building Society has estimated that prices rose by only 0.9 per cent over the period and Rightmove’s measure of online asking prices was 0.1 per cent lower.

Halifax argued that its increase compared with “a particularly low growth rate over the corresponding period in 2018, impacting year-on-year comparisons” and reflected “a notably high growth figure recorded in February this year”. According to the Halifax, average UK house prices rose 1.1 per cent between March and April to £236,619.