House sales 'flatlining', surveyors warn

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The average number of properties on surveyors' books has hit a new all-time low, a report has found.

Just over 42 homes were available for sale per branch on average in June, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said.

The number of fresh homes coming to market had fallen for 16 months in a row - and "against this backdrop, average stock levels have slipped to a new low" - Rics, whose survey started in 1978, said.

House prices continued to push upwards in June, but the pace of growth had slowed. 

A net balance of 7% of surveyors across the UK saw prices rise rather than fall in June, but in May more surveyors had been seeing prices increase, with an overall balance of 17%.

In central London the pace of decline in house price inflation continued, with 45% more surveyors seeing a decline in prices over the month while the South East and East Anglia were showing a flatter trend, Rics said.

By contrast, in Northern Ireland, 41% more surveyors saw a rise in prices rather than a fall in June and in Wales 38% more surveyors saw a rise rather than fall in prices over the month.

The West Midlands and the North West were also regions where prices continued to rise, with net balances of 33% and 28% of surveyors in these areas seeing rising prices respectively.

Surveyors' expectations for house sales in the coming 12 months had fallen to their weakest levels since the aftermath of the vote to leave the EU in 2016, Rics said.

Despite the increased sense of caution, overall, a net balance of 12% of surveyors still expected to see an increase in sales in the coming year rather than a fall.

Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at Rics, said: "The latest results demonstrate the danger, however tempting, of talking about a single housing market across the country.

"Rics indicators particularly regarding the price trend are pointing towards an increasingly divergent picture.

"High-end prime properties may be seeing prices slipping back but, for good or ill, prices are continuing to move higher in many other segments of the market."

Mr Rubinsohn said sales were "flatlining" and may continue to do so for a while, "particularly given ongoing challenge presented by the low level of stock on the market".