Number of home sales plunged to 15-year low in April
The number of homes sold in April nearly halved compared with March, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) figures show.
Across the UK, an estimated 46,440 residential property transactions took place last month, down by 46.1% compared with 86,200 sales in March.
April’s total was also a 53.4% decrease compared with April 2019.
The latest monthly total is the lowest on comparable records going back 15 years to April 2005.
HMRC’s figures show completed sales with a value of £40,000 and above, but cautioned that its latest releases are subject to some uncertainty, and therefore its figures are provisional.
Its report said: “Impacts from Covid-19 are evident within the latest HMRC UK transactions data.”
The UK housing market was on hold during April as part of efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus.
But last week the transactions in England were kick-started once more, with people now able to visit estate agents and undertake physical property viewings, subject to Government guidance.
Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent and a former residential chairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said: “This data comes at a particularly interesting time, just after the Covid-19 bombshell hit, so one of the first to reliably assess the damage.
“This has been significant with probably worse to come, while new normal values are established.
“On a more positive note, activity has picked up considerably since we returned to work, at least in part, although it will take several months for interest to build to offers and completions and be reflected in these or similar reports.”
Andrew Southern, chairman of property developer Southern Grove, said: “Residential transactions are usually motivated by necessity so, subject to the economic realities that prevail as the country starts to emerge from this crisis, many of these missing sales should rise from the deep.”
Property website Rightmove said that on Tuesday this week (May 19) it recorded its busiest day since Thursday March 5, with nearly 5.3 million visits. This was up by 4% on the same day in May 2019.
Rightmove also said locations in Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds have shown particularly big upswings in buyer searches compared with a year ago.
Rightmove’s housing market expert, Miles Shipside, said: “One week on from the surprise opening of the housing market and agents are still showing caution and quite rightly putting safety first, but many had already started to prepare during lockdown and so have been able to start reopening their branches and conducting viewings.
“The activity jump on Rightmove proves the determination of home movers to continue with their plans over the next few months.
“The pause button put many of the usual metrics we report on out of kilter and so a week’s worth of data should only be taken as an early indication of activity, but it’s certainly encouraging.”