Budget changes to stamp duty have not yet had any discernible impact on the housing market, according to the latest survey from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.
The UK housing market remained subdued in November, according to the RICS residential market survey, with the main indicators tracking activity hovering in negative territory.
The survey showed both the current and short-term outlook for prices is broadly flat, with respondents unconvinced that the market will gain momentum in the coming months.
Demand in the housing market stabilised across the UK in November, but this masked significant regional variation. RICS said negative sentiment in London, the South East and East Anglia offset a more positive outlook elsewhere.
Looking ahead, the survey found the same picture when it came to three-month price expectations. Respondents are confident prices will rise in the North West, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, but were more cautious about London and the South East.
Elsewhere, the marked decline in new buyer inquiries over the previous couple of months appeared to moderate in November, with 5 per cent more respondents noting a decline, rather than an increase in inquiries.
Although this indicates the market is still weakening, it is a narrower gap than the 19 per cent differential reported in October.
Similarly, newly-agreed sales continued to edge lower, with 10 per cent more respondents seeing a fall rather than a rise in sales.
New instructions to sell also continued to deteriorate. RICS described this as a “supply crisis” as this figure has now been declining for 22 months.
The outlook for 2018 does not look particularly rosy with estate agents asked to compare the number of appraisals undertaken in November with the same period last year.
Almost half (49 per cent) noted that appraisals were lower, with just 15 per cent reporting an increase. RICS says that these figures do not bode well for the new instructions pipeline.
RICS chief economist Simon Rubinsohn says: “It is perhaps not surprising that the headline indicators for both prices and activity are subdued as Christmas approaches.
“It is clear from the results that the mood music in London and the South East is very much flatter than elsewhere and interestingly, the forward look indicators suggest this is likely to persist into the new year.”
He adds: “It remains to be seen whether the scrapping of stamp duty for first time buyers announced in the Budget will provide much of a lift for the market. There was not much evidence of this in the latest survey, which was conducted after the change in policy and while most independent analysis casts doubt on whether there will be much follow through, it is still early days.
“However, if the move does trigger a wider debate about how best to tax property, it will serve a useful role.”