There were 102,330 residential property transactions in December - that’s up 3.6 per cent on the same month last year on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to HMRC figures.
However transactions were down a slight 0.1 per cent last month from November, and during the whole of 2018, seasonally adjusted, 1.19m properties were sold, slightly down from the 1.22 that changed hands in 2017.
On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, the figures show that transactions collapsed 11.5 per cent from November and dropped 2.9 per cent annually.
Industry commentator Jeremy Leaf, a London estate agent and former RICS residential chairman, says: “It’s a price-sensitive, needs-driven market, especially at this time of year, and continues to be underpinned by low mortgage and unemployment rates, improving affordability and stock shortages. As a result, we have recorded better-than-expected viewings and valuations in January.”
He warns that realism is a requirement from both sides of transactions.
“Serious sellers need to ensure their homes are realistically priced to attract viewings. If the new stock which typically comes on the market at this time of year is over valued, it will be readily exposed on property portals. Some need to recognise that the first offer they receive may be their only offer, however disappointing it may seem” he says.
Meanwhile Kevin Roberts, the director of Legal & General Mortgage Club, warns that the HMRC figures indicate little more than a stagnant market.
“The government’s extension of the Help to Buy scheme and a stamp duty exemption to shared ownership properties will help those further down the ladder, yet there is more work to be done. Extending this break to last-time buyers would free up larger properties for growing families, enabling the next generation of homebuyers to step onto or even up the property ladder” he says.
Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, adds: “Indecision created by Brexit has also contributed to the fall in transactions as would-be buyers and sellers sit on their hands and take a ‘wait and see’ approach. Lenders started this year the way they finished the last one – keen to lend and offering some competitive products to encourage borrowers to take the plunge.”