UK house sales up by nearly a fifth in November compared with year earlier

The number of homes sold in November was nearly a fifth higher than in the same month a year earlier, according to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Some 115,190 transactions took place in November 2020, marking an 8.6% increase compared with October and 19.3% higher than in November 2019.

There have been signs of buyers rushing to beat a stamp duty holiday deadline.

The “nil rate” band for residential stamp duty was increased to £500,000 from July 8 2020 to March 31 2021 for transactions in England and Northern Ireland. Similar measures were introduced in Scotland and Wales from July 15 2020 and July 27 2020 respectively.

Across the UK, house sales were down by 50% in April and May this year compared with the same period a year earlier, following the impact of coronavirus restrictions.

But since then, sales have been climbing monthly, which HMRC said had reflected the gradual easing of coronavirus public health restrictions for the property market and the introduction of residential transaction tax holidays within the UK.

Gareth Lewis, commercial director of property lender MT Finance, said: “It is encouraging to see the trend for property transactions continue on its upwards trajectory, with plenty of demand and purchases going through.

“We expect the market to go from strength to strength in the new year as long as stricter lockdowns don’t preclude people from doing their jobs, such as carrying out valuations. Concerns over the new strain of Covid could prove to be a stumbling block.”

He added: “We have already had a couple of valuations pulled at the last minute.”

Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent and a former residential chairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), said: “Transactions are always a better indicator of market health than more volatile house prices.

“However, despite these numbers showing a still-accelerating trend, they reflect sales which were agreed several months previously. Since then, the market has been moving closer to hibernation as is traditional at this time of year.

“It will be a few months at least before transactions fall in line with the reduced activity that we have been seeing on the ground over the past few weeks.

“Nevertheless, prospects for 2021 remain relatively positive bearing in mind the determination of the overwhelming majority of buyers and sellers to complete their moves, even if inevitably some will miss the stamp duty deadline.”