Housing Stock in the UK drops heavy as buyer demand wanes

The average number of properties on estate agents’ books has hit a record low and is most unlikely to improve, according to a survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics).

While a typical estate agent has 42 homes on their books per branch, in London – where the nation’s chronic housing shortage is most concentrated – the figure is just 33.

Rics’s monthly residential market survey, which gathers the views of more than 300 chartered surveyors across the country, also found that there was a prevailing trend in the lack of new buyer enquiries, new instructions and newly agreed sales.

New buyer enquiries fell for the eleventh consecutive month, with 16pc more survey respondents seeing a fall rather than rise in new customers, while the number of agreed sales was also down, continuing a six-month trend.

Buyer demand has fallen most dramatically in London and the south-east, Rics said, while it has risen in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Yorkshire and the Humber. Figures in most other regions remained broadly flat.

As market activity continues to slow, prices remained flat in February for the ninth month in a row, although there was an uptick in headline prices in Wales, the north west, Northern Ireland and the East Midlands.

Rics said the five-year indicator for house price growth will be approximately 15pc by the end of the 2023.

Simon Rubinsohn, Rics chief economist, said: “The divergent regional picture is becoming increasingly pronounced with key Rics indicators across huge swathes of the country still showing considerable resilience, but data for London, the south east and East Anglia are rather more subdued.”

Russell Quirk, chief executive of online estate agent Emoov.co.uk, said that it was important to note that only a “tiny proportion” of Rics members were actually estate agents and so their views “aren’t entirely typical of the overall industry”.

Earlier this week Theresa May said young people unable to climb onto the property ladder had a ”right to be angry” and that developers were partly to blame for the nation’s chronic housing shortage and other property issues.

Announcing reforms to planning rules, the prime minister said developers had a “perverse incentive” to hoard land once it had been approved for development rather than actually build on it, meaning much-needed houses were not being built. She added that they should step up and “do their duty to Britain”.

Previous research has suggested that more than 423,000 new homes in Britain have been granted planning permission but are still waiting to be built.

Councils are approving nine in every 10 planning applications, but sites are being left empty as developers fail to build quickly enough, and councils are unable to step in.

Brian Murphy of the Mortgage Advice Bureau said that it “stands to reason that if fewer properties are on the market for sale, buyer choice is restricted”. He said: ”This means that those who are actively looking are likely to view fewer properties, hence why we would see a reported reduction in new buyer enquiries.”

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