Rightmove’s web traffic between Boxing Day and the end of last week is up five per cent on the same period a year ago.
“This increase in search activity is notable given that a year ago market activity was buoyed by the November announcement that second home stamp duty would apply from April 2016” says the portal.
More detail on the portal’s performance will be revealed when it reports to shareholders and the City on the full 2016 year on February 24.
However, the portal says the surge in activity since Boxing Day - the date it believes would-be movers start preliminary searches - bodes well for the market in 2017, notwithstanding Brexit and political and economic uncertainty.
There was a 0.4 per cent rise in the average asking price of a property coming to the market in the past month, equivalent to a £1,086 rise - this is very similar to the 0.5 per cent rise recorded in January 2016. Asking prices have risen 3.2 per cent over the full 2016 year.
“The ... increases are indicators of the continued market momentum from the autumn. Demand for a suitable home is such that visits to the Rightmove website are still up by 5.0 per cent year-on-year, despite being compared to a period that was boosted by high demand from buy to let investors rushing to beat the stamp duty deadline” reiterates Miles Shipside, Rightmove director and housing market analyst.
Year-on-year comparisons for transactions in the first quarter of 2017, when the data is available, should also allow for the distortion of last April’s additional stamp duty tax deadline, as transactions were up 40 per cent in the first quarter last year, Shipside cautions.
“Those planning to buy their first home in 2017 have more choice and less competition from other buyers than their counterparts a year ago. It’s a possible learning point for aspiring first-time buyers that a year ago, buy to let purchasers acted more quickly and closed deals at a faster rate, appearing not to take a Christmas break” he adds.
A restraining force on potential first time buyer activity is increasingly stretched affordability, however. FTBs' favoured target sector of two bedrooms or fewer has seen the biggest price rises of any sector both month-on-month (up 2.6 per cent according to this latest Rightmove index) and year-on-year (up 6.4 per cent).
“Some sellers of first time buyer properties may be being over-optimistic with their pricing, giving an opportunity for budget-strapped first-time buyers to negotiate, especially if they act now while there’s still more choice available” says Shipside.