Rightmove says the excess of demand over supply right now is bigger than at any time over the past decade - making this, beyond doubt, a seller’s market.
The number of potential buyers enquiring about each available property in the month is at a record, and 34 per cent higher than the same period a year ago, which was itself an active market just before the first lockdown.
With sales already agreed for almost two out of three properties on agents’ books, Rightmove says buyers eagerly await fresh choice coming to market, making this the best sellers’ market of the past 10 years.
Start of traditional spring selling period has the number of sales agreed for the first week in March up by 12 per cent on this time last year despite the shortage of available stock.
The average price of property coming to market over the past four weeks has risen another 0.8 per cent, equivalent to £2,484.
Tim Bannister, Rightmove’s director of property data, comments: “Concerns of a cliff edge for the housing market at the end of March have dissipated, partly due to the tax deadline extensions in all of the UK bar Scotland, but also because the already high level of buyer demand caused by the lockdowns has continued to surge since the start of the year.
“This demand will be further boosted from April by the new government guarantees enabling lenders to bring back five per cent deposit mortgages. Whilst it is unfortunately not the perfect time to buy for some people who have been adversely affected by the pandemic, the record buyer demand measured by Rightmove indicates that now is the right time for many.
“Record low interest rates and the new focus on what your home needs to offer after several lockdowns have led us to the greatest excess of demand over supply in the last ten years. This strong sellers’ market is good news for those who are looking to put their home on the market as the traditional Easter selling season approaches. Blossoming buyer demand coinciding with blossoming gardens should put a spring in the steps of sellers, and more of them coming to market will provide a much-needed increase in the choice of property for the many who are looking to buy.”
However the portal admits there are early signs that this supply shortage may now be easing, with more owners deciding to market their properties, spurred by the extension of government incentives and a more tangible roadmap to normality.
New listing numbers are seeing momentum building in their weekly run-rate, and for the first week in March were only five per cent down compared to the prior year after being over 20 per cent down in February.
Bannister adds: “So many sales have been agreed in recent months that we now face a serious shortage of homes available for sale. There are lots of reasons why many home-owners have hesitated to come to market during the first two months of the year, but these do now seem to be dissipating. A recovery in fresh supply gives more choice to prospective buyers, many of whom are also potential sellers, which in turn encourages more of them to come to market.
“Greater supply to match the high demand would ease upwards price pressure. Price rises will also be tempered by the tighter lending criteria imposed by the Bank of England upon lenders following the Mortgage Market Review in 2014.
“Restrictions on borrowers’ income multiples alongside stress testing of future affordability were specifically designed to guard against the destructive booms and busts of the past, limiting buyer borrowing power and preventing excessive price movements. The current annual rate of house price increase stands at a historically modest rate of 2.7 per cent, but we stand by our forecast for the year of 4.0 per cent which we published in December.”
* A quick apology to readers - we originally had a headline saying this was a buyers' market; amended now to say sellers' market.