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Agents remain positive despite sales slump

Property sales slumped in April but are still above the pre-pandemic average, HMRC data shows.

Provisional UK property transaction figures from the taxman show sales were down 12.1% annually in April 2022 and fell 3.9% compared with March to 106,780.

The figure was down 13.9% annually and 10.5% monthly on a non-seasonally adjusted estimate to 97,970.

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Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, highlighted that while this is a drop, transactions in April remained 13% above the pre-pandemic average.

He said: “Though these figures are yet to reflect the impact of the squeeze on household finances and increases in interest rates, they show peoples re-assessment of what they want from a home has continued to support housing market activity, even though the experience of lockdown has begun to fade into our memories.
 
“The pool of unmet demand among more affluent home-buyers, who are more insulated from the macro-economic backdrop than the average household, points to a slowing in the market rather than anything more dramatic, especially given the lack of stock available to buy.”

There is a feeling among agents and analysts that the market is starting to level out, helped by a boost in supply.

Nick Leeming, chairman of Jackson-Stops, said: “After a remarkably long cycle of eye-watering house price growth, we may be at long last seeing the scales of supply and demand become more balanced. 

“The loosening up of the housing market is good news to sellers who were previously holding back in fear of not finding a suitable onward purchase. A boost in supply should mark the end of this period of stalemate.

“Although HMRC reports that transaction numbers in April this year are far from the highs we saw in 2021, last year by all accounts deviated from any seasonal norms as buyers and sellers made up for lost time during the multiple lockdowns throughout 2020 where transactions dropped by over 55%.
 
“Looking ahead, I think for the rest of the year we will see market activity start to level out relative to the frenetic pace seen in the months previous. 

“Certainly, the first quarter of 2022 was the peak of post-pandemic related enthusiasm. First-time buyers at the bottom rung of the property ladder will feel the pinch of house price growth and inflation more than any other buyer type, as we watch mortgage payments outpace rents.

“This will start to filter up from the bottom, but not for some time yet. Downsizers and cash buyers remain fairly immune from any volatility that may be forecast, with many choosing to move house now to achieve the best possible price for their home.

“The Jackson-Stops network is predicting a rise in new instructions with multiple bids and record prices still common place, ruled by the scale of yet unsatisfied demand. As the market moves, sellers are choosing to move with it.”

Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said this was still the second busiest April in a decade for sales despite the dip.

She added: “What’s more noticeable is that the peaks and troughs have levelled off, and we’re seeing a far steadier number of transactions. 

“While the seasonally-adjusted figures need to be taken with a pinch of salt because of the distorting impact of the stamp duty holiday, they show that since October 2021 we’ve seen sales slowly rise and then fall back.

“The big question is what happens next. 

“There are plenty of pressures building in the market. Rocketing prices mean buyers are under increasing pressure, and rising house prices and mortgage rates will be stretching affordability ever-thinner. 

“At some point we will see sales slow, as buyer enthusiasm cools slightly. However, at this stage we may well see gentle undulations for a while to come, before we head for lower ground.”

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