Rightmove says its visits so far in January are running over nine per cent higher than the same period a year ago, with an average of over four million visits each day.
It adds that average asking prices are up 0.7 per cent over the past month - a very similar figure to the 0.6 per cent recorded in January 2017 and with an almost identical number of properties coming to the market.
However, it warns that buyers are still price-sensitive with the number of sales agreed in the last quarter of 2017 down 5.5 per cent on the same period a year earlier.
“Considering some of the gales that buffeted the market in the latter part of 2017, these early readings for 2018 show that there is currently a good following wind of search activity. To keep this year’s initial buyer momentum with you rather than against, serious sellers should note that all regions are currently selling at a slower rate than a year ago, indicating choosier buyers” cautions Miles Shipside, Rightmove director and housing market analyst.
The annual rate of price increase in newly-marketed property is 1.1 per cent, but Rightmove says in some regions prices are running between four and six per cent higher over the year.
Only London is recording a year-on-year fall - by a substantial 3.5 per cent.
While the 0.7 per cent increase in asking prices of property coming to market this month is very similar to the 0.6 per cent of the same period a year ago, both years are well behind the average monthly rise of 1.9 per cent seen at this time of year in the faster-rising markets from 2013 to 2016.
However, Shipside says the current market’s negative price factors of stretched buyer affordability and uncertain political outlook are counter-balanced to a degree by the continuing tight supply of suitable properties for sale and the recent near-abolition of stamp duty for first-time buyers.
There is no increase in choice for buyers, with average overall stock per estate agency branch holding steady at 42 properties, the same as a year ago.
Shipside adds: “There is no sign so far of any rush to come to market and try to sell, with the number of new-to-the-market properties holding steady against the same period a year ago at around 63,000. With no increase in fresh supply, and an overall average of 40 per cent of properties on agents’ books already sold subject to contract, would-be buyers in some sectors and locations of the UK are seeing less choice to tempt them, fuelling some localised price rises.”
He predicts: “Those selling to ‘quick-off-the-block stamp-duty-saving first-time buyers’ are set to have a busier first quarter than those trying to sell in other sectors. We expect that many first-time buyers will act fast to satisfy their appetite to get onto the housing ladder and secure their property at today’s prices, before any stamp duty savings are eaten up by rising property prices.”