Property transactions hold steady in December

Property transaction levels held relatively firm in December, according to the latest housing market survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

The average number of completed sales per surveyor in the three months to December was 15.2, slightly down on November’s figure but still close to the best level since autumn 2010.

However, sales expectations for the coming three months fell from a net balance of +4% to 0%, with surveyors reporting that sellers’ unrealistic price expectations may be holding back transaction levels.

The survey also shows that the number of new properties coming onto the market edged up for the third consecutive month in December, with 12% more respondents reporting a rise rather than a fall in the number of new instructions.

London saw the greatest increase in supply, with surveyors reporting a net balance of +38%, the highest figure since January 2005.

Prices across much of the country continued to fall during December, albeit at the slowest rate since June 2010, with 16% more surveyors reporting price falls rather than rises, compared to a previous net balance of -17%.

London was the only area to see price increases, with a net balance +46%, while the West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside reported the biggest drops with net balance readings of -47% and -43% respectively.

Demand remained fairly steady in December, with 2% more respondents reporting new buyer enquiries increasing rather than decreasing, marginally down on November’s figure of +7%.

Looking ahead, price expectations remain low with a net balance of -21% of respondents expecting prices to continue falling over the coming three months. 

Ian Perry, housing spokesman at RICS, says: “While it’s encouraging that sales activity held up relatively well towards the end of the year, continuing problems with the economy and the ongoing instability in the eurozone seem to be weighing heavily on the UK housing market and expectations for the coming months are fairly subdued. 

“The increasing number of prospective sellers who placed their homes on the market in December is a positive development as a lack of stock has been a big issue in some parts of the country but with sales expectations remaining flat, it is important that vendors are realistic in their pricing if they wish the sale to go through in good time.”