Zoopla says number of UK property sales on track to fall to lowest level in a decade

The number of house and flat sales in the UK this year is set to be the lowest in a decade, according to new figures from a leading property website.

Zoopla's monthly house price index, which tracks the number of homes sold subject to contract, found levels were down a fifth so far compared to 2022.

It forecast that sales will be the lowest since 2012 by the end of the year, although it still expected around one million completions to be made in 2023.

It is the equivalent of every household in the country moving once every 23 years - far below the average of eight years, Zoopla said.

The firm said it "highlights the deep impact of recent economic changes on the housing market".

It comes following a raft of figures from other property firms and lenders in recent months which also suggest a slump in the housing market.

They include the Nationwide Building Society, which said prices experienced the sharpest fall in 14 years in July.

However, the rising cost of borrowing is thought to have cancelled out any benefit, even though some lenders are now cutting mortgage rates.

Zoopla said the expected 21% decline in property sales by the end of 2023 was largely due to a fall in buyers with mortgages.

"We expect the number of mortgaged sales to drop 28% on last year. On the other hand, cash sales will fall just 1% compared to 2022," the company said.

The Bank of England has raised interest rates 14 times in a row as it battles to bring down inflation and has warned they are likely to remain high for some time.

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Zoopla executive director Richard Donnell said: "The housing market continues to feel the impact of higher mortgage rates and cost of living pressures.

"It's resulting in weaker demand from buyers, fewer sales and very low house price growth."

But Mr Donnell said he expected the number of sales to "recover well" in the coming two to three years due to "more flexible working, demographic trends from an ageing population, the strong labour market and high immigration".

He added Zoopla expected mortgage rates to fall below 5% later this year, but warned it would be a "drawn-out process".

"Any falls to mortgage rates are unlikely to impact the market and improve affordability further until at least the first half of 2024.

"This is why we're less optimistic about house price growth, which looks set to stay within the +2% to -2% range for the foreseeable future," Mr Donnell added.

The Zoopla report also found that UK house prices have risen 0.1% in the last year, which is also the slowest rate since 2012.

The annual change in the cost of buying a home in August ranged from a rise of 1.7% in Scotland to -1% in London, the firm said.

Sarah Coles, head of personal finance at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "As wages rise relative to property prices, we know that once mortgage rates go low enough, we should see affordability to start to work its magic on the market again.

"The problem is that predicting exactly how low rates need to go, and when they'll get there is a tricky business."

Matt Thompson, head of sales at London-based estate agent Chestertons, said buyers had been more cautious and in some cases were delaying purchases.

He added: "However, there still are buyers who have already locked in a mortgage rate with their lender and are keen to secure a property before the rate expires."