House sales hit six year high

The average number of houses sold per chartered surveyor rose to its highest level in six years during the first three months of 2014 as increasing numbers of buyers looked to test the housing market right, says the RICS March Residential Market Survey.

Simon Rubinsohn RICS chief economist Simon Rubinsohn RICS chief economist

In the three months to March, respondents sold on average 22.7 homes, the highest amount since February 2008, while in the North West, sales rose to 26 per surveyor, the highest since January 2008. This latest increase in transactions comes at a time when the market is showing greater signs of life right across the country.

Last month, all parts of the UK saw buyer enquiries increase, with the exception of Wales where new interest was static after strong growth in previous months. The North West saw a net balance of 50 percent of surveyors reporting new buyer enquiries. Moreover, newly agreed sales rose most notably away from London and the South East for the second consecutive month, with 48 percent of surveyors in the North West reporting sales in March, up from 32 percent the previous month.

However, while activity is now showing encouraging signs of life in many areas, the market in general continues to be hampered by the lack of homes coming up for sale. Across the UK, new instructions from vendors continued to fall in March as the predicted ‘spring bounce’ failed to materialise.

In the North West, a negative net balance of -36 percent of surveyors reported new stock coming onto the market, meaning fewer surveyors have seen houses come up for sale than those with no new stock coming on to the market; a marked increase on the -8 percent seen in February.

Significantly, the increase in demand continues to be accompanied by rising house prices. During March, 57 percent more surveyors across the country saw prices rise rather than fall. Outside of London and the South East, prices experienced the most noticeable growth in the South West and the East Midlands. IN the North West, 51 percent of surveyors saw prices rise.

Looking ahead, with no indication that the imbalance between buyer demand and homes on the market will change any time soon, surveyors expected prices to continue to increase as we enter the summer months.

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist, commented: “Now the housing market recovery is well and truly underway and mortgage finance is more readily available, buyers seem to be looking to test the market right across the country, not just in the usual hot spots of the South East. That said, it is a major concern that we are not seeing enough houses coming onto the market. For the market to operate effectively, we desperately need more homes in areas where people want to buy and want to live. Until this happens we’re likely to see prices continue to increase and it is going to be ever harder for many first time buyers to conceive of ever owning their own home.”

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