Experts shed light on what might happen to property market

The UK housing market has been going through a confusing time lately, with buyers and sellers trying to work out what uncertainty surrounding Brexit will mean for property sales.
It now takes 19 weeks on average for a home to sell. Photograph: PAIt now takes 19 weeks on average for a home to sell. Photograph: PA
It now takes 19 weeks on average for a home to sell. Photograph: PA

But while all isn’t yet clear, some housing reports have been giving clues about current market trends.

To get a snapshot of what’s been happening in recent weeks, and what might happen in the coming months, here’s a look at what some experts have been saying.

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◆ If you’re looking for a home, you may not find too much choice. Average stock levels on estate agents’ books were close to a record low in March, a monthly survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) recently found.

There were slightly over 42 properties on average per branch in March, edging up from just under 42 in February. February’s figure was a record low for this part of the Rics survey, which started in April 1994.

Rics also found it now takes 19 weeks on average for a home to sell, from it going on the market to the sale being completed.

◆ With Brexit uncertainty still hanging over the market and recent general signs of prices drifting downwards, Rics says this indicates a modest fall in house prices over the coming months.

But not everywhere is experiencing price falls – in Scotland and Northern Ireland Rics says house prices have continued to grow.

Meanwhile, surveyors expect prices to generally be higher in 12 months’ time – with Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales leading the way in terms of surveyors’ expectations.

◆ The strength or weakness of a housing market can depend on all sorts of factors – such as the strength of demand and the supply of properties in a particular area, and how close an area is to popular schools.

While London and the surrounding south east of England have been seeing a slowdown, other parts of the UK have been affected by the impact of other factors.

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For example, the Office for National Statistics recently said there has been some strong house price growth in south east Wales “likely linked to the abolition of the Severn Bridge tolls”.

◆ The prime housing market, which includes homes in the top 5 per cent price bracket, held up “better than expected” in the first quarter of 2019, according to real estate adviser Savills.There is a growing pool of demand developing among buyers who are taking “a wait and see approach”, it said. This could mean sales pick up when the political situation becomes clearer. Savills says the prime market in Edinburgh has been performing particularly well recently, while Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and Bath have all seen prime property prices fall annually.

◆ Some sellers may need to watch out for “gazundering”, where a buyer lowers their offer at the last minute. Some 45 per cent of people surveyed think gazundering is a serious problem, up from 40 per cent when similar research was carried out last year, the report from the HomeOwners Alliance, BLP Insurance and architects found. Gazundering can happen just before a sale is set to go through, with sellers sometimes feeling under pressure to accept the lower price to stop the deal collapsing.