Housing market lacks ‘spring bounce’ as buyers pause amid Brexit uncertainty

The average price tag on a home is 0.8% lower than it was a year ago as the spring selling season gets off to a subdued start.

Across Britain, the average asking price for a home in March stands at £302,002, Rightmove said.

While this is lower than a year ago, prices have edged up by 0.4% or £1,287 month on month.

Rightmove said this was the lowest month-on-month increase seen at this time of year since 2011 and “considerably lower” than the 0.9% average increase seen over the past seven years.

It said the usual spring bounce in the housing market is, at best, being delayed by Brexit uncertainty.

Rightmove director Miles Shipside said: “While March marks the start of spring, temperatures have yet to rise in the housing market.

“Buying activity remains cooler than usual, with hesitation as some buyers await a more settled political climate.

“There’s greater resilience the further away you get from the London market, and there’s a sound bedrock of demand for the right property at the right price, reinforced by ongoing housing needs combined with cheap mortgage borrowing.”

In Scotland, asking prices have jumped by 3.1% month on month – the biggest increase in March of all Britain’s nations and regions, followed by the North West of England with a 2.2% increase.

In Wales, asking prices are up by 1.4% month on month.

Asking prices in London are down by 1.1% on the previous month, while the only other English region to record a monthly fall is the North East of England, down by 1.3%, with elsewhere in Britain seeing an increase.

London asking prices are 68% higher than they were 10 years ago, while those in the North East of England have increased by 8% over the past decade.

Rightmove house price study
Asking price changes across Britain (Rightmove/PA)

Mr Shipside said: “London and some of its commuter belt are suffering from a post-boom hangover, with prices now having to be far more sober to attract buyer interest.”

Rightmove said the number of sales agreed by estate agents in February was 7% below the same period in 2018, compared with a year-on-year fall of 4% recorded in January.

But search activity on Rightmove remains steady, with the number of visits to the website staying level in the year to date.

It said this indicates that home movers are “keeping a watching brief” which could lead to an eventual bounce if and when the uncertainty subsides.

Mr Shipside said: “The closer you get to the wire without the clarity of an agreed way forward, the greater the propensity for buyers to wait and see rather than acting now.

“This could be a temporary pause, and indeed market slowdowns at election time and around the original referendum result bounced back pretty quickly.

“Markets and people do not like uncertainty, though, while sales agreed numbers are down by 7%, that means they are still running at 93% of last year’s levels.

“Most potential buyers are getting on with their lives or seeing a price lull as an opportunity to get on to the housing ladder or move to the next rung, with average national asking prices being 0.8% cheaper than a year ago.”

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