Housing market activity 'stifled' by lack of fresh properties, surveyors say

Housing market activity continues to be "stifled" by a persistent shortage of fresh properties coming to market alongside economic uncertainty, according to surveyors.

The Royal Institution of Surveyors' (Rics) report for November said the near-term outlook for both house prices and sales is "broadly flat", with feedback suggesting surveyors are unconvinced the market will gain impetus in the coming months.

Rics said the fresh supply of properties being listed for sale continued to deteriorate in November - and numbers have now been declining for 22 months in a row.

But, partly driven by a slower pace of sales, stock levels on estate agents' books held broadly steady in November.

To give an indication of the pipeline of properties coming onto the market in the coming months, contributors were asked to compare the number of appraisals undertaken in November with the same period last year.

The largest share (49%) noted appraisals were lower, while only 15% stated they were higher on a like-for-like basis.

Rics said: "As such, this does not bode particularly well for the new instructions pipeline."

Its report said: "The near term outlook for prices and sales is now broadly flat, with contributors appearing unconvinced that the market will gain impetus in the coming months."

It said feedback received "suggests that housing market activity continues to be stifled by a persistent shortage of new instructions along with economic uncertainty."

In general, house prices were flat in November, with no overall change. But behind the national figure there were significant regional variations, with London continuing to see the most negative sentiment, with a net balance of 54% of surveyors seeing prices fall rather than rise.

Alongside this, both the South East and East Anglia also reported negative price trends.

Elsewhere, the house price balance was slightly negative in the North East, but stronger elsewhere in the UK, Rics said.

In particular, solid price gains were reported in Wales, Northern Ireland and the North West of England.

Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at Rics, said: "It is clear from the results that the mood in London and the South East is very much flatter than elsewhere and interestingly, the forward looking indicators suggest this is likely to persist into the new year."

Mr Rubinsohn continued: "It remains to be seen whether the scrapping of stamp duty for first-time buyers announced in the Budget will provide much of a lift for the market."

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