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UK housing market activity slows for first time since July

The UK housing market ground to a virtual halt in December as price growth cooled and fewer homes changed hands, according to the latest RICS survey.

Residential property price growth slowed last month with the headline balance of surveyors reporting an increase falling to 24% from 29% in November.

“Although this suggests prices are still rising firmly, the latest figure does end a run of four successive months of higher house price balances,” RICS said.

The finding from the poll also found that the majority of RICS’ members expect a further slowdown in property price rises and new sales over the next three months as the formal Brexit process look set to get underway.

“While it remains to be seen if this is a temporary setback, 1% more chartered surveyors saw a fall rather than a rise in sales last month, and figures for predicted sales over the next three months across the UK also saw a noticeable slow down with only 4% more respondents anticipating an increase in sales during the coming three months down from 18% previously,” RICS said.

London was the only area to experience a drop in prices while the North West of England had the strongest price growth.

While price expectations for the next three months in the UK have softened for the second consecutive report, due to slower demand, RICS said respondents were more positive on the year as a whole.

In the next 12 months a net balance of 49% of respondents anticipate prices will increase in the UK, compared to 40% in the previous survey.

Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at RICS, said the latest survey ”provides further evidence that both price and rent pressures are continuing to spread from the more highly valued to more modestly valued parts of the market for good or ill”.

But although activity flattened last month, Richard Sexton, director of e.surv, was keen to point out that this is typical around the festive period as many buyers wait to restart activity in the new year. However, even if demand has softened, the problem remains on the supply side.

He said. “New instructions remain sluggish and with annual house prices rising at an unsustainable rate, too many prospective new buyers are being priced out of the market.

“A new year means new opportunities for change. As we await the government’s Housing White Paper, hopefully further initiative and funding will be applied to help secure home ownership for many hard-working earners.”

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