Home buyer inquiries rise for first time since February, say surveyors

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Home buyer demand has picked up across the UK for the first time in seven months, surveyors have reported.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said housing market confidence is showing signs of improvement following "post-referendum jitters".

In September, a balance of 8% more chartered surveyors reported an increase in buyer inquiries rather than a decrease, Rics said.

It marks the first month since February that the number of surveyors seeing a growth in interest from buyers has outweighed the number seeing a drop-off.

Rics said there has been a "significant turnaround" in buyer interest since June, the month when the EU referendum vote was held.

In June, an overall balance of 34% of surveyors were seeing buyer interest decreasing rather than increasing. 

But while buyer demand picked up in September, the number of new properties coming to market fell again - continuing a trend of dwindling stock seen for the most part of the last two years.  

As a result, the average level of stock on estate agents books remains close to historic lows at just over 45 properties.

Rics said the fall in housing supply alongside the increase in buyer demand is expected to push up house prices in the near term and by rather more in the long term.

In September, a net balance of 17% of surveyors saw house prices increase rather than decrease, up from a balance of 13% in August.

House prices are predicted to rise further over the next three months nationally, with a balance of 14% of surveyors expecting to see an increase rather than a decrease. This is the strongest expectation that house prices are set to increase in the near term since March.

But Rics said there is still a greater level of caution around the housing market in central London where prices are generally expected to see modest falls in the near term.

It said evidence suggests uncertainty following the vote to leave the EU as well as stamp duty changes have affected the top end of the market in particular.

Meanwhile, surveyors in Northern Ireland and Scotland were the most likely to feel homes on the market in their area offer good value, the survey found.

A lack of choice for would-be home buyers generally appears to be restricting overall sales activity, Rics said. But looking ahead, surveyors expect to see a firm pick-up in sales across the UK in 12 months' time.

Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at Rics, said: "The market does now appear to be settling down following the significant headwinds encountered through the spring and summer."

But he said the lack of homes on the market remains a "big issue" and is impacting on house prices and sales.

Mr Rubinsohn continued: "Central London remains something of an outlier with contributors telling us this is the one part of the market where there may be further give on prices in the near term. Elsewhere the price trend still seems on the up."