UK housing market weakness continues into 2018, finds RICS survey

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The UK housing market’s weakness continued into 2018, according to the latest survey of chartered surveyors.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) reported that the net balance for new buyer enquiries in January was –11 per cent, the 10th month in a row that the reading has been negative.

There was also weakness on the supply side of the market, with new instructions by vendors showing a net balance of –17 per cent, the weakest since May 2017.

The latest Halifax report on house prices released earlier this week showed a decline in average year-on-year house price growth to 2.2 per cent in January, down from a rate of 4.5 per cent as recently as October.

The Rics update follows data from the Bank of England showing that new mortgage approvals in December fell to their lowest in three years, and suggests this slackening of demand was not a temporary blip.

“The latest Rics results point to housing transactions at a headline remaining pretty subdued over the coming months,” said Simon Rubinsohn, the chief economist of RICS.

Squeeze on demand and supply 

The Rics national price balance was in positive territory at 8 per cent in January, the second successive month of growth.

But it remained deep in negative territory in London and the South-east. 

Rics reported that 67 per cent of respondents said sales prices for properties marketed above £1m were coming in below asking prices.

The net balance on prices was also negative in the North and East Anglia.

Several surveyors reported that Brexit and recent stamp duty bikes were having a negative impact on the market.

“Middle and upper market significantly affected by Brexit/Stamp Duty/Buyer profile change,” wrote John Frost of the Frost Partnership in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire.

Before the 2016 referendum the Treasury projected that average national house prices by the end of 2018 could be 10 to 18 per cent lower than otherwise in the event of a Leave vote.