Sluggish housing market sees record low in number of properties for sale

Updated: 

The number of properties sitting on estate agents' books has fallen to a record low amid a lack of impetus in the housing market, according to a report.

There were 43 unsold properties per branch on average in March - the lowest figure since the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) started collecting the data. Its records go back to 1978, with the way the calculations are made changing in 1994.

Rics said a net balance of 13% of surveyors saw a decrease rather than an increase in fresh properties coming onto the market.

It said the lack of homes available has impacted on sales, with an overall balance of 3% more surveyors seeing a fall in agreed sales rather than an uplift last month.

The lack of supply in the market continues to drive house prices upwards, with 22% more surveyors seeing an increase over the last month rather than a fall across the UK.

Surveyors' perceptions about current house price growth in central London have deteriorated to the weakest levels seen since 2009, Rics said. Despite this, a balance of 14% more surveyors in London expect prices there to be higher, rather than lower in 12 months' time.

Looking ahead, a balance of 24% of surveyors across the country expect house sales numbers to increase rather than decrease in 12 months' time. Sales expectations have weakened since February, when a balance of 37% of surveyors expected to see a pick-up in 12 months' time.

In the lettings market, Rics said tenant demand continues to increase as 11% more surveyors noted an increase rather than a fall.

Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at Rics, said: "The latest results for the Rics survey show little change in the underlying picture surrounding both sales and markets.

"High end sale properties in central London remain under pressure, while the wider residential market continues to be underpinned by a lack of stock. This includes rents, with rents away from the capital generally moving higher as demand outstrips supply.

"For the time being it is hard to see any major impetus for change in the market, something also being reflected in the flat trend in transaction levels."

Figures released this week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the average UK house price has increased by £12,000 over the last year to reach a record £218,000 in February.