Housing demand remains flat

There was no ‘Spring bounce’ for the housing marketing in May, RICS has reported.

Surveyors said that fears over the economy and lack of mortgage finance continued to depress activity levels.

The latest RICS UK Housing Market survey reported that newly agreed sales in May slipped back from the previous month’s reading, as only 5% more surveyors reported sales rose rather than fell.

The average number of completed sales per surveyor also fell by 3.4% in the three months to May, to just 14.7, the lowest level since January.

The average number of stocks per surveyor increased by 8.1% over the month to 71.3 (from 66), as more properties came to market and many stayed on surveyors’ books for longer.

RICS said that given the rise in stock levels and fewer sales levels during May, the sales to stock ratio – an indicator of the balance between demand and supply – fell to 20.6%, well below the long run average of 33.5%.

Surveyors reported that there was little sign of a renewed appetite to view property, with new buyer enquiries little changed on the month (-2%) many surveyors cited the bank holidays for the flattening of demand. Meanwhile, new vendor instructions continued to rise, but the pace of increase slowed slightly during May (to +15%).

28% more surveyors reported price falls rather than rises – the lowest reading since the beginning of the year. However, of those respondents seeing falling prices, the vast proportion – 82% – reported declines within the 0% -2% margin.

London was the only region of England where more surveyors saw rising rather than falling prices. Meanwhile, in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, the price balance remains negative.

Looking ahead, surveyors expectations for future sales edged down, although they remain in positive territory at +9%. Price expectations, which are already negative, fell more sharply with 27% more respondents expecting prices to fall rather than rise over the next three months.

Ian Perry, RICS housing spokesperson, said: “Buyer interest in purchasing property remains flat across much of the country and there is little sign of this changing any time soon. Uncertainty over the economic outlook remains as important as the availability of mortgage finance in depressing demand.