Housing market at weakest level in six years as Brexit looms

Brexit uncertainty has pushed the UK property market to its weakest level in more than six years as buyers and sellers sit tight in increasing numbers, according to surveyors.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) says that indicators for supply and demand fell again, as almost half of respondents to its latest survey cited political uncertainty caused by Brexit as impacting the UK housing market.

Rics’s residential market survey found the number of people looking for a new home fell again in November, with many surveyors attributing this to Brexit uncertainty. A net balance of 21% of surveyors reported house prices falling compared with 15% in October.

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist, says: “It is evident from the feedback to the latest RICS survey that the ongoing uncertainties surrounding how the Brexit process plays out is taking its toll on the housing market.

“Indeed, I can't recall a previous survey when a single issue has been highlighted by quite so many contributors.”

Softer demand also dragged down property prices. RICS says that its house price balance – which assesses whether property prices have risen or fallen – fell from -10% in October to -11% in November – the lowest since 2012.

Price falls were most acute in London, the South East and East Anglia. In the South West, East Midlands and North East prices remain broadly flat.

Rises were seen in Northern Ireland, Scotland, the West Midlands, Wales, Yorkshire & Humber and the North West.

The number of new properties being listed for sale fell for the fifth consecutive report, and the net balance of -24% was the fastest pace of decline in supply noted in 28 months.

Mr Rubinsohn says: “Caution is visible among both buyers and vendors and where deals are being done, they are taking longer to get over the line.”

He adds: “Significantly, the forward-looking indicators reflect the suspicion that the political machinations are unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.

“The bigger risk is that this now spills over into development plans making it even harder to secure the uplift in the building pipeline to address the housing crisis.”

Looking ahead, surveyors don't expect to see any improvement, with sales expectations at their lowest since the EU referendum result.

The survey echoes recent figures from Halifax, which found house price growth was at its lowest level since December 2012.

According to the bank's latest house price index, price increases fell from 1.5% in October to 0.3% in November, taking the average price of a property to £225,995.

This article was originally written by our sister publication Moneywise.

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