Brexit uncertainty continues to challenge the housing market, say surveyors

Brexit remains a major drag on housing market activity, with prices expected to edge downwards over the coming months, surveyors have said.

Average stock levels on estate agents’ books were close to a record low for the survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), at slightly over 42 properties per branch in March – edging up from just under 42 in February.

Meanwhile, new inquiries from buyers diminished for the eighth month in a row.

Demand fell across all parts of the UK in March, Rics said.

It takes 19 weeks on average for a home to sell, from listing to completion – the joint longest time period since records on this started in 2017 – Rics said.

The South East of England continues to show the most protracted selling times, at 21-and a-half weeks on average.

A net balance of 24% of surveyors saw a decrease rather than an increase in house prices in March.

This points to a “modest fall” in house prices at the national level over the next couple of quarters, Rics said.

London and the South East of England continue to display the weakest sentiment regarding prices, with Scotland and Northern Ireland the only parts of the UK to have seen sustained price growth on a consistent basis, over the past two months.

Over the longer term, surveyors expect prices to go up.

Looking ahead, at the national level, a balance of 15% more surveyors anticipate house prices will be higher rather than lower in 12 months’ time.

Prices are expected to return to growth across most areas over the next 12 months, with Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales leading the way in terms of surveyors’ expectations.

London and the South East are the only areas where surveyors expect prices to continue falling over the year ahead, Rics said.

Simon Rubinsohn, Rics chief economist, said: “Brexit remains a major drag on activity in the market with anecdotal evidence pointing to potential buyers being reluctant to commit in the face of the heightened sense of uncertainty.

“Whether any deal provides the shift in mood music envisaged by many respondents to the survey remains to be seen but as things stand, there is little encouragement to be drawn from key Rics lead indicators.

“We expect transactions to decline on this basis.”