Estate agents are selling property at the rate of just one home a week, says the RICS.
The institution’s new report, out this morning, says that the number of sales per estate agency member has slipped to an average of 14 in the three months to the end of August – taking transaction levels to a 26-month low.
The RICS asked its members why they felt sales levels are so low.
The most commonly cited reason was general economic uncertainty (79%). In addition, nearly three-quarters of surveyors (70%) felt a lack of mortgage finance was impacting negatively on transactions, and 40% felt that fear of price falls was keeping buyers and sellers out of the market.
New buyer inquiries also fell back in August, and surveyors reported that house prices dipped during the month, other than in London.
The majority also expected house prices to fall further.
RICS housing spokesperson Alan Collett said: “For the time being, our indicators suggest that demand for homes remains broadly steady, albeit at relatively low levels, despite the renewed bout of economic gloom.
“However, the risk is that the worsening economic picture will gradually begin to have a more material impact on sentiment and discourage potential house purchasers even where mortgage finance is available.”
Agent Tim Brown, of George F White in Bedale, North Yorkshire, said: “Property must be priced realistically if it is going to sell this year or in the future. The sooner vendors come to terms with this the better. Too many agents continue to set unrealistically optimistic guide prices in order to gain instructions, but are doing their clients no favours by doing so.”
Another agent, Simon Hickling, of Maxey & Son in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, said: “Mortgages are still very difficult to obtain, leading to a lack of first-time buyers: we have not had one for over 12 months.”
A separate report from the Home website paints a picture of a lucklustre housing market going into autumn, with asking prices falling back slightly and houses typically taking 120 days to sell – 15 days longer than last September.
The site, which lists properties taken from virtually all the property portals and websites in the UK, warned of slides in property prices, trapping more people in negative equity.
It said: “The consequences for the UK property market are that fewer and fewer properties will change hands.
“Even those people who must move through work, divorce or a growing family will choose to rent out their property rather than accept the financial loss required to make a sale.”