The first set of figures for the year from HMRC show that there were 0.8 per cent more residential property transactions in January than in December.
This adds up to a total of 101,170 properties transacted when seasonally adjusted, which is some 1.3 per cent higher than the number recorded a year ago.
Zoopla’s Richard Donnell, research and insight director, says: “The background for housing sales remains broadly positive with employment levels hitting record highs, continued low mortgage rates and growth in first-time buyer numbers. Market forces have impacted sales volumes in south eastern England and this is acting as a drag on overall residential transaction volumes.
“The annual increase in property transactions … is a reflection that, despite increased uncertainty, households continue to make decisions to buy and sell property. Our analysis shows mortgaged home owners accounting for 71 per cent of sales, up from 61 per cent in 2015 when investors and cash buyers were more prolific.”
Jeremy Leaf, the north London estate agent and former RICS residential chairman, says that the HMRC figures reflect what he and others see on the ground: “Buyers are cautious and sellers reluctant to make significant reductions. Yet there is no sign of any major corrections in the market, even though sales are harder to negotiate and taking longer to complete. Looking ahead, we do anticipate seeing more signs of release of pent-up demand when hopefully political and economic uncertainty reduces a little.”
Another agent - Will Tremlett, senior associate at UK Sotheby’s International Realty - says: “There is no denying that the property market is highly susceptible to external political and economic factors, and considering we are already facing a tumultuous year of political change the government really needs to think carefully about its proposal to introduce an additional one per cent stamp duty for overseas buyers.”
And according to Jonathan Harris, director of mortgage broker Anderson Harris, the market is holding up better than many expected: “As we near some [Brexit] resolution one way or another, this will be a huge help and may finally persuade those putting decisions on hold to take the plunge. On the lending front, Swap rates have dipped on the back of suggestions that interest rates may be held or cut in the event of a no-deal Brexit in order to boost the economy.”