Logjams in the mortgage, conveyancing and removal stages of house moving mean sales are taking much longer than usual, according to Rightmove.
The portal, in its latest monthly market snapshot, says there are almost 40 per cent more sales currently on the journey to completion than a year ago.
“We’re hearing of challenges at all steps of the buying and selling process, including lenders having to deal with a higher number of mortgage applications and solicitors over their capacity” claims Tim Bannister, Rightmove’s director of property data.
“The temporary stamp duty holiday means there’s more urgency than usual for the congestion to be cleared by the end of March, making it vital for buyers and sellers to work closely with their agent and to make sure they’re moving fast to complete a document or answer questions” he continues.
And he adds: “We’d advise that buyers and sellers factor in at least an extra month for the current delays in the process, if possible, as time is already running short for sales that are agreed now to be completed by Christmas.”
Meanwhile the portal’s regular price index shows that the trend of up-sizing to a larger home has continued at pace over the past month, leading to record asking prices in the second-stepper sector, made up of three- or four-bedroom homes.
This price record has been fuelled by buyers looking for more space, including both those who need extra space for their families and those looking for room to work from home.
Overall prices have remained steady since they hit a record in July, up by a marginal 0.2 per cent on the month and up by 5.0 per cent annually - the highest annual growth rate recorded since September 2016.
Regions outside the South of England have seen the strongest price jumps, with Yorkshire & the Humber, East Midlands, West Midlands, North East, North West and Scotland all at new records.
Rightmove says the demand for larger homes is also reflected in the number of sales being agreed by agents compared to this time last year.
The strongest sector is ’top of the ladder’, which includes four-bedroom detached homes and larger. Sales agreed, compared with the same period last year, more than doubled in August in this sector, up by 104 per cent. While in the second-stepper sector (three- or four-bedroom homes excluding four-bedroom detached) they were up by 55 per cent.
The first-time-buyer sector of two bedrooms or fewer, although not as strong as the larger homes sectors, still saw sales agreed up by 36 per cent.
Bannister - speaking own behalf of Rightmove because regular market commentator Miles Shipside is away - says: “Increased competition for second-stepper homes has pushed prices to a record this month for those looking to take the next step up the ladder. Needing more space has always been the most popular reason for moving house, but now there’s a new urgency for extra space to be able to work from home, which means that there are different sets of buyers competing for the same type of property.
“At the start of the year a fourth bedroom was very much a luxury for buyers trading up, but it’s now emerging as a must-have for those who are able to take that step.
“With overall asking prices just a few hundred pounds shy of July’s record, and buyer demand at an all-time high, those currently looking for their next home are likely to find that only offers close to the asking price will be considered, especially for larger homes.”
Nationally, sales agreed for the whole year to date are now down by only 5.0 per cent on the same period last year, despite the 2020 lockdown and two regions – the East of England and the South East – have already overtaken the number of sales agreed for the same period last year, helped by higher average prices causing the stamp duty holiday to have more of an impact for buyers and sellers in these areas.
In London, sales agreed for the year to date are down by just three per cent with a two-speed market in play.
There is strong sales activity in Outer London, especially for top-of-the-ladder homes, while areas like Zone 1 are finding it more challenging, where sales are down by 14 per cent for the whole year to date compared to the same period last year.
The strong activity in Outer London has helped the capital to climb back to being the second fastest region for the average time taken to secure a buyer, now being beaten only by Scotland at 35 days.
The average number of days to agree a sale in London is now 49, a significant 20 days shorter than at this time last year. Nationally, the average time to secure a buyer has dropped from 62 days in August 2019 to 53 this August.