Supply of houses for sale hits a 14-year low

First-time buyers have never had it so tough, estate agents warned. Picture: Jane Barlow
First-time buyers have never had it so tough, estate agents warned. Picture: Jane Barlow
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The supply of available ­housing in the UK slumped to its lowest for 14 years in ­January, new data from the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) shows.

Its January housing market report came as demand soared, jumping by a fifth from the previous month, as landlords flooded the market to beat the buy-to-let stamp duty surcharge that comes into effect on 1 April.

The association said the number of properties available per member branch fell to 33 in January – the lowest recorded since the figure of 25 in December 2002.

However, it said demand surged in the first month of this year, hitting the highest average level of house-hunters registered per branch since July 2015, at 453. That compared with December’s level of 374, during what the association said was a “seasonal lull in activity”.

Meanwhile, 72 per cent of estate agents reported increased interest from landlords, up from 44 per cent in December, on the back of the planned introduction of a 3 per cent stamp duty ­surcharge for purchases of buy-to-let properties.

READ MORE: House prices in Scotland continue to rise as supply falls

Managing director Mark Hayward said: “Our findings reflect what we are all seeing across the market which is that landlords are trying to complete on sales ahead of the changes to stamp duty on additional homes in April. It continues to be a sellers’ ­market as demand outstrips supply.”

He also noted the jump in sales in January to first-time buyers (FTBs), up by five percentage points from December to reach 29 per cent of total sales in the month.

Hayward said the FTB market share is expected to rise after April, adding: “The fact that housing supply has reached a 14-year low really highlights the need for the government to push the house-building programme to the very top of their agenda and help more FTBs make their first step on to the housing ladder.”

A survey last month by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors found that lack of supply helped Scottish house prices to rise in January.

Sarah Spiers, the institution’s director in Scotland,noted “the near-term pressure on prices is intensifying,” and the “failure of pick-up in new properties coming on to the Scottish market”.