Brexit and the economic uncertainty since the EU Referendum have not prevented Connells delivering overall growth in 2016 - despite a two per cent annual dip in sales.
“Whilst sales suffered ... we have registered more applicants, been instructed on more properties and seen another record performance within our new homes business. This is on a like for like basis before allowing for the contribution made by some of the newer additions to our group” explains David Livesey, group chief executive, in his annual report.
Connells says right up to the end of 2016 buyer demand continued to exceed the volume of new instructions coming to the market and Livesey says winning fresh stock will be a key focus of his agents this year.
On the lettings side, Connells reports a three per cent increase in average rents in the past 12 months, although with greater choice thanks to an increase in lettings stock, rents dipped in all regions of the country in the final quarter of last year.
“With lenders applying more stringent lending criteria and tax relief changes taking effect from April, we may see a tightening in the market during 2017” says Livesey.
“We expect to see home-mover volumes continuing to improve, along with a potential uptick in first-time buyer activity as prospective new purchasers take a fresh look at the market, particularly if the buy-to- let sector remains flat. ... We expect transaction volumes to remain reasonably static in 2017 and, with continuing buyer demand, the pressure on house prices is set to continue. We are likely to see house price inflation at least comparable to the three per cent in 2016” he says.
“The government is set to trigger Article 50 by the end of the first quarter of 2017, an action that is likely to introduce some uncertainties within the wider economy, some of which will no doubt be felt within the housing sector. However, the shock to the system that was delivered by the Brexit vote is now largely done” Livesey insists.