The housing market has got off to a slow start in 2018, with lower levels of new buyer enquiries, property listings and sales, according to the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors.
Its latest survey shows a continuation of the cooler conditions seen towards the end of last year with 17 per cent more surveyors reporting a drop in new valuation instructions (compared to the previous month) than an increase – the weakest result since May 2017.
Meanwhile, the appetite from prospective buyers also remained lacklustre, with 11 per cent more surveyors reporting a fall in new enquiries than an increase. Newly agreed sales also slipped.
RICS chief economist Simon Rubinsohn says: “The latest results point to housing transactions […] remaining pretty subdued over the coming months despite some more positive comments from contributors to the survey.
“Lack of inventory on agents’ books continues to provide a major challenge with the number of valuations being undertaken not suggestive of a pick-up in new supply anytime soon.
He adds: “Divergent regional trends remain very much to the fore with the market in many parts of the country still actually behaving in a solid if unspectacular way despite the downbeat headlines.
“Affordability issues continue to play a key role in explaining this pattern with those areas where house price earnings are most stretched seeing the softest markets.”
Mortgage Advice Bureau head of lending Brian Murphy says: “The report issued by the RICS today is based on the results of a sentiment based survey, rather than hard data, which provides us with an insight into how surveyors perceived the market over the last month in their local area, rather than being based on hard data.
“From this ‘coalface’ view, the report suggests that 2018 got off to a rather lacklustre start, with new seller instructions still at all-time low levels which no doubt has had an impact on the amount of buyer enquiries received and sales agreed, as a bottleneck of properties available will inevitably stifle choice and therefore purchasing activity, even if demand is evident.
“This is likely to be a hangover from December, when the market entered its normal seasonal slowdown and activity somewhat cooled in some areas, which may be an ongoing theme until the Spring thaw brings with it new sellers who are ready to actively market their properties.”