Residential property sales in the UK fell by 0.3% between March and April 2019 to 99,420, according to official figures published by HMRC.
But they were up substantially year on year, some 7% higher than in April 2018 and the longer term data shows that there has been a generally rising in the annual trend for residential transactions over the last five years.
Non-residential sales increased month on month by 9.5% to 11,300 and year on year they were up by 14.6%, the data also shows.
According to Adrian Moloney, sales director at OneSavings Bank, with house price growth stalling and in some areas falling, and take home pay packets increasing, there are tentative signs that some prospective buyers are taking the opportunity to purchase their first home.
‘Nonetheless, caution hasn’t been entirely cast aside as we are unlikely to see any significant activity without more housing stock and some closure to the political and economic uncertainty which is still in the back of many buyers’ minds,’ he added.
Joshua Elash, director of property lender MT Finance, expects transactions to be subdued while uncertainty over Brexit specifically impacts the end-user market and overly aggressive tax treatment continues to dampen investor activity and appetite.
‘However, it’s a tale of two cities as investors turn instead toward commercial property where yields remain attractive and less oppressive tax policies support and encourage investment. Whatever the Brexit debate, investors are buying into commercial property and it’s great to see confidence in this sector translating into transactional growth,’ he added.
Jonathan Harris, director of mortgage broker Anderson Harris, believes that people put buying on hold because of Brexit in the run up to the UK supposedly leaving the UK at the end of March and then not doing so.
‘However, as the politicians continue to argue and don’t seem any closer to a resolution, people are finally getting the message that they need to get on with their lives and not rely on what is going on in Westminster and beyond,’ he said.
‘Lenders remain keen to lend and there are some very attractive rates to tempt borrowers brave enough to take the plunge. With property prices falling in some areas, and not rising at the same rate as in the past in others, there could also be the opportunity to snap up a property at a great price,’ he added.
Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, pointed out that transactions are a much better barometer of property market health than more volatile house price data and these figures are no exception. ‘Transactions are holding up, probably better than expected, and no great change is likely one way or the other with no Brexit resolution,’ he said.
‘However, what the numbers do mask is extended transaction times as lack of urgency and shortage of stock are the main issues affecting the market,’ he added.