Rightmove’s latest market snapshot, released this morning, appears starkly at odds with the situation described by some agents in recent days.
“The key metrics so far all point to a much more active market than last year” says the portal’s report.
It adds: “Sales surge pushes new-to-market prices to record high.”
However, today’s index is considerably out of date as it uses data from February 9 to March 7.
Since then, there have been two UK government statements on the escalating outbreak of Coronavirus.
Last week a London estate agent went on record as saying viewings were down 25 per cent even in early March while a newspaper story yesterday spoke of a 50 per cent drop in viewings; independent agencies have (unsuccessfully) called on portals to offer payment holidays because business is so tough.
Rightmove’s index, however, pays only passing reference to the Coronavirus.
Instead it concentrates on figures for the four weeks up to early March which at that time showed a 17.8 per cent rise in sales to their highest level for that time of year since 2016.
The number of new sellers had risen 1.2 per cent suggesting demand was likely to outstrip supply; and five days last month were the busiest ever for Rightmove, the portal explains.
Rightmove director Miles Shipside says: “The average asking prices of over 110,000 properties that have come to market this month [four weeks to March 7] are at a record high as we enter the traditionally busy spring moving season. As a result, we are measuring the highest annual rate of increase since December 2016. Many more properties are being bought, and bought more quickly than at this time last year. This is further fuelling the existing shortage of property available for sale, driving up prices to a new record high."
He continues: “New supply to the market has failed to keep anything close to the pace of demand. Purchasers in a position to buy have been snapping up what’s currently on the market, rather than waiting for the usual post-Easter flurry of fresh supply. There are marginally more owners putting their properties on the market compared to this time last year, but it is usual for sellers to want to wait for another month or two until there are more leaves on the trees to soften the starkness of their photographs and harden up their pricing prospects.”
And he concludes: “The market has been waiting for several years for a window of certainty, and 2020 seemed set to be the year when many would look to make a move and satisfy their pent-up housing needs. However, the current fast pace of the housing market could now be temporarily affected by the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. We expect that housing market statistics, like other economic indicators, could be prone to volatility over the spring and summer. However the market fundamentals are still very sound, hence the current surge in activity, which has included Rightmove’s five busiest days ever. There have been no signs so far of a drop in buyer activity or interest in the housing market.”