UK Property: House sales dip slightly in April but remain resilient for 2019 overall

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According to the latest data released by HMRC, residential property transactions in the UK decreased by just 0.3 percent between March and April on a seasonally adjusted basis. However, the number of homes sold actually remains 0.8 percent higher than the same period last year. Looking further at the seasonally adjusted figures, a total number of 99,420 properties were sold last month in the UK, only a slight drop on March when 99,740 transactions were completed. However, this figure actually represents a slight increase of 0.80 per cent on a year-on-year basis, which saw a total number of 98,620 sales in April 2018.

In fact, reviewing the collective year to date figures highlights another marginally positive trend, with 396,930 transactions on an adjusted basis and 345,110 on an unadjusted basis, showing a 0.75 percent and 0.78 percent increase respectively on the same period in 2018. 

In other words, the housing market appears – for the most part at least – to be resilient in the face of yet more political turmoil, in terms of transactions levels at least.

While asking prices may be softening in some regions, as reported earlier this week following property search portal Rightmove’s latest report, it seems that isn’t having an adverse effect on the number of sales which have completed since the beginning of this year. In fact, potentially it’s quite the opposite.

Jeremy Leaf, former RICS residential chairman, was cautiously optimistic about the latest numbers from HRMC.

He said: “We find transactions are a much better barometer of property market health than more volatile house price data – and these figures are no exception.

“Transactions are holding up, probably better than expected, and no great change is likely one way or the other with Brexit resolution apparently kicked further into the long grass.”

Jeremy added: “However, what the numbers do mask is extended transaction times as lack of urgency and shortage of stock are the main issues affecting the market.”

Joshua Elash, director of property lender MT Finance, was more circumspect. Looking at the monthly decrease in sales, he observed: “It comes as no surprise to see transactional volumes in the residential space falling 0.3 per cent month-on-month.  

“We expect this trend to continue while uncertainty over Brexit specifically impacts the end-user market and overly aggressive tax treatment continues to dampen investor activity and appetite.”

Many in the industry have predicted that 2019 will see a similar level of homes sold in the UK to the last few years, suggesting that the final number of sales for the year will sit at just under 1.2million.

Certainly, based on figures to date and the current average ‘run rate’ this would seem to be reasonably realistic.

That said, it does of course depend on both ongoing buyer demand and the number of available homes remaining at their current levels.

Therefore, whilst this latest set of figures don’t exactly make for dramatic reading, what they do perhaps paint is the picture of a steady UK housing market with very few peaks and troughs.

Many would probably suggest that’s no bad thing at all, and that the histrionics are best left to those at Westminster.

Follow Louisa on Twitter: @louisafletcher

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