UK house sales picking up

UK property sales edged up slightly in February, according to the latest survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics). A few more first-timers have been buying ahead of the reintroduction of 1% stamp duty on 24 March for homes under £250,000. As a result, average sales per estate agency branch in the survey rose from 15.7 to 16 last month.

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UK house prices continued to dip during February, albeit at the slowest rate for more than a year and a half. But RICS said that for the first time since May 2010, surveyors are no longer expecting prices to fall further.

“This is the first time since May 2010 that respondents have not been predicting further price declines,” Rics spokesman Alan Collett said.

“Given the recent upturn in interest from first-time buyers looking to beat the stamp duty exemption deadline, it would appear that surveyors are slowly becoming less pessimistic over prices.”

London was the only part of the country where prices went up, while properties in the West Midlands and Northern Ireland saw the biggest drop in value, the figures indicate.

Fresh interest from potential buyers was relatively flat during February with a net balance of three percent more respondents reporting increases in demand. Surveyors report that problems accessing affordable mortgage finance continue to hinder many first time buyers who would otherwise be looking to get onto the property ladder.

New instructions, which indicate supply levels to the market, saw a slight upturn with nine percent more surveyors reporting instructions rose rather than fell. New stock coming to the market has now risen, albeit relatively modestly, for five successive months.

Looking ahead, with a less pessimistic outlook surrounding future prices, surveyors expect transaction levels to continue to rise. A net balance of 20% more surveyors predict sales to increase over the coming three months.