Data from HM Revenue & Customs shows some 98,400 homes were sold across the UK in September - that’s slightly lower than the same month in 2017.
Looked at across the whole of 2018 to date - the first three-quarters of the year, - the total is down by 4.1 per cent compared with the same period in 2017, so is likely to end the calendar year with under the last annual total of 1.2m sales.
The figures have received a muted welcome from agents.
Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, says: “These numbers show the patient to be in reasonable condition but still fairly weak so vulnerable to any unpleasant Budget medicine [next Monday] which may stall their recovery. Some buyers and sellers are cautiously coming to the market but in nowhere near the numbers hoped for or expected. As a result, sentiment is not strong and only those prepared to negotiate hard are successful.”
Mike Scott, chief property analyst at online agency Yopa, says the trend for sales is now slightly rising after a challenging start to the year. “The slowest month was March, which was affected by heavy snow and was nearly 10 per cent behind March 2017. Since then, the comparison with 2017 has improved, and 2019 is more likely to see a recovery in the number of houses sold than a further downturn” he believes.
Meanwhile separate figures released from NAEA Propertymark show the number of properties available to buy increased by 15 per cent in September – rising from 40 in August to 46 per branch on average.
This was the highest number recorded since March 2016 when an average of 54 properties were available and the highest for the month of September since 2014, when there were 51.
The association also says that the number of house hunters registered per branch also rose by six per cent last month, from 320 in August to 338 in September.
However, despite this short-term trend, the NAEA suggests demand is down by 14 per cent year-on-year, as there were 394 house hunters registered per branch in September 2017.
Sales to first time buyers rose marginally in September, increasing from 20 to 22 per cent.
However, the number of sales agreed per branch remained the same in September, with an average of nine recorded per branch.
“We hope that during next week’s Budget the Chancellor announces further measures to improve market conditions for first time buyers. Ultimately, the only thing which will make the housing ladder more accessible is reduced competition, which comes down to supply” says Mark Hayward, chief executive of NAEA Propertymark.