House sales rise thanks to first time buyers
First time buyers hoping to beat the holiday on paying stamp duty have helped push house sales up in January, latest figures show.
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors said today in its housing market survey that 12 per cent more surveyors across the UK reported rises rather than falls in newly agreed sales since the beginning of the year.
Up until 24 March, first time buyers are exempt from paying stamp duty on properties under £250,000 and some surveyors said this had produced an increase in activity at the lower end of the market.
With this in mind, respondents to the survey said they were optimistic about prospects in the near term – with 19 per cent predicting transaction levels to pick up over the next three months. However, surveyors reported that a lack of affordable mortgage finance continues to hold back the market.
Despite the optimism on first time buyer sales, prices across much of the country continued to fall with 16 per cent more surveyors reporting drops rather than increases.
The West Midlands and Wales saw the biggest drops in prices with surveyors reporting net balance readings of -54 and -41 respectively.
Supply remained relatively steady during January, with 7 per cent more surveyors reporting increases rather than decreases in new homes coming onto the market.
Overall new buyer demand dipped slightly in January with RICS saying the recent lift in activity was driven by one-off factors.
Michael Newey, RICS housing spokesperson, said: ‘With first time buyers no longer exempt from stamp duty as of the end of March, it seems that some are looking to purchase homes before the deadline and, as a result, surveyors are relatively optimistic for the coming months.
‘However, many problems with the market still exist and the lack of affordable mortgage finance is still preventing many from getting onto the property ladder.
‘Prices are still falling across most parts of the country, but expectations for future prices have become less pessimistic.’