DECEMBER 2016: UK RESIDENTIAL MARKET SURVEY
SALES MARKET STRUGGLING TO BUILD MOMENTUM
• Activity flattens during the month while near term expectations moderate
• Prices continue to slip in central London although all other areas see an increase
• Shortage of landlord instructions drives rental growth projections higher
The December 2016 RICS UK Residential Market Survey results point to sales activity stuttering somewhat having appeared to be gaining momentum over recent months. The latest findings also show respondents paring back their expectations for the near term growth in transactions. Nonetheless, this does follow a string of reports in which confidence in the outlook improved steadily and it remains to be seen whether or not this is a temporary setback or the onset of a weaker trend.
In terms of demand, although new buyer enquiries rose for a fourth month in succession (on a seasonally adjusted basis), the increase was only marginal during December. Meanwhile, new instructions to sell failed to see any pick-up, marking the tenth straight month without any improvement in the flow of fresh listings at the national level. As such, contributors continue to highlight low stock levels as a key concern and a lack of choice for would-be buyers is seen to be weighing on activity.
In keeping with this, the national newly agreed sales indicator eased back following a stretch of mildly positive readings since August, suggesting transaction volumes were more or less unchanged over the month. That said, some parts of the UK were reported to have seen a rise in sales, as Wales, the South West, and the North East all registered positive balances.
Looking ahead, near term sales expectations moderated noticeably. Further out, however, respondents’ twelve month sales outlook was largely unchanged. About 1/3rd more contributors expect sales to rise (rather than fall) over the year ahead. Within this, Scotland and Northern Ireland returned the strongest twelve month projections, although expectations sit comfortably in positive territory in all parts of the UK.
Suggestions are that house prices are rising relatively firmly at the national level, the latest reading does end a run of four successive months of higher house price balances. The disaggregated data shows London as the only area where prices are falling (the price indicator across the capital has remained in negative territory for ten consecutive months). At the other end of the scale, respondents in the North West of the country reported the strongest price growth relative to all other areas.
With regards to the outlook, near term price expectations softened for the second consecutive report, suggesting immediate price pressures may be easing slightly given slower demand growth. Notwithstanding this, at the twelve month horizon, about 50% of respondents anticipate prices will increase. This is up on the comparable reading of 40% previously and was in fact the strongest return since May. When broken down, all parts of the UK are expected to see higher prices over the year ahead although expectations remain relatively subdued in Central London.
London is expected to strengthen but significantly, it is still projected to increase at a lesser rate than the UK average.
December was quiet apart from sales completing for Christmas. There remained a shortage of new instructions and prices were stable but demand slackened off which was not unexpected for the time of year. I foresee a quieter market in 2017 with only a marginal increase in values.
Please do not hesitate to contact me should you wish to discuss any matter regarding the marketing of your property. Oliver Miles FRICS RICS Registered Valuer