Frozen housing market thaws as UK buyers ‘move on from Brexit’

Tom BelgerFinance and policy reporter
Yahoo Finance UK
Homes in Huddersfield as figures show UK property sales have picked up since the December election. (Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)
Homes in Huddersfield as figures show UK property sales have picked up since the December election. (Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)

The housing market has shown greater signs of life in the past month as buyers “moved on from Brexit,” according to chartered surveyors in the UK.

New data shows continued evidence of a “champagne cork reaction” among buyers and sellers since the prime minister’s decision election victory eased Brexit uncertainty in December.

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Surveyors report that the number of enquiries from new buyers, agreed sales and homes put up for sale all increased in January.

Members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) across every region said in its monthly survey that they were optimistic sales volumes would continue to rise in 2020.

A recovery in activity would mark a significant development for the UK property market. It has seen a slowdown in activity in recent years, driven by tax reforms and fears over Brexit.

Surveyors said an emerging turnaround in London and the south-east, which have been particularly stagnant, had driven up average prices. January marked the first month that more RICS members reported rising prices than falling prices since July 2018.

Read more: ONS warns rising number of Brits may never own a home

“We’re seeing a bit of a champagne cork reaction to Brexit and the election,” said James McKillop of Knight Frank’s team in the south-west in his response to the survey.

Local buyers were bidding “well above guide prices” at auctions, according to one surveyor in Newark, Nottinghamshire. “Buyers have moved on from Brexit and are moving forwards,” said Kirsty Keeton, of Richard Watkinson & Partners.

Will Ravenhill, a surveyor at Readings Property Group in Leicester, highlighted a leap in the number of homeowners seeking the estate agent’s guidance on how much they could sell for. Its market appraisals were up 41% year-on-year in January.

Read more: High earners and wealthy homeowners ‘face tax hikes’ in UK budget

In Leeds and Wakefield, the number of new properties up for sale even hit a 12-year high at the estate agent Manning Stainton.

But several surveyors reported that housing supply levels and confidence still remained well below the norm, with one saying many homeowners were still “sitting it out from the sidelines.”

Chris Gooch, a surveyor at Carter Jonas in Winchester, also highlighted the prospect of fresh uncertainty as Britain edges closer to a new Brexit cliff-edge when the current transition period ends in December.

“Buyers are buying and sellers are selling - how long will it last is the big question. Will a difficult trade deal stifle this burgeoning confidence later in the year?”

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