Number of house hunters lowest in 7 years

The average number of house hunters registered per estate agency branch dropped by 18 per cent in February to 252, from 309 the same time last year, figures from NAEA Property Mark have shown.

This is the lowest figure since July 2013, when agents typically had 250 prospective buyers registered per branch.

February’s number is 41 per cent lower than in 2017 and 46 per cent down on 2016 when there were 463 house hunters per branch.

Month-on-month demand from buyers has fallen by 15 per cent from 297 in January.

But the figure suggest that first-time buyers are taking advantage of a less competitive market, as the proportion of sales to this group reached a seven-month high of 30 per cent.

The last time FTBs experienced this rate of sales was July 2018 when they benefited from the annual summer lull.

Month-on-month, this figure has increased by four percentage points from 26 per cent in January.

The supply of available housing fell from an average of 36 properties per member branch in January to 34 in February

This figure has not moved significantly from February 2018 when there were 35 properties available to buy per branch.

The number of sales agreed rose in January, and remained high in February, with seven recorded per branch

Year-on-year, this fell slightly from eight in February 2018.

NAEA Propertymark chief executive Mark Hayward says: “With demand at a seven-year low, buyers are approaching the market with caution.

“As we move into spring, we would usually expect to see an increase in activity, but house hunters are evidently delaying their plans until the impact of Brexit is clearer.

“Over the last seven months however, we’ve seen periods where FTBs have taken advantage of reduced competition and driven their transactions forward, and this really picked up in February.

“The next few months will be very telling – will activity pick up once there’s further clarity on what Brexit means, or will it push the housing market into a deeper pool of uncertainty?

“Time will tell, but in the meantime both buyers and sellers should feel positive. There are still house hunters searching for properties and there are still new homes coming onto the market.”

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