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Housing Market

RICS report sparks lively debate

Simon Rubinsohn paints a picture of demand AND supply heading downwards.

The Negotiator

RICS building imageThe RICS UK Residential Market Survey for June 2016 indicates that uncertainty fuelled by the EU referendum has resulted in a marked drop in activity in the housing market.

  • Buyer enquiries fall for third consecutive month – lowest reading since mid-2008
  • Agreed sales fall sharply with further drop expected in the short term
  • 12 month price expectations turn negative in London and East – but longer term forecasts remain positive.

Twitter was awash with sharp comment from those who might prefer to talk up the market rather than ‘spread fear’. A Country Agent said, “Its compiled by nervous surveyors! Calm down!”

The report says that new buyer enquiries have declined significantly across the UK in June, with 36 per cent more chartered surveyors nationally reporting a fall in interest – this is the lowest reading since mid-2008. The South of the UK has been the hardest hit, with anecdotal evidence suggesting both the EU result and the tax changes, which took effect at the beginning of April, as having an impact on sentiment.

There was a further fall in the supply of properties coming available for sale across the UK in June, with the exception of Northern Ireland. This highlights the continuing challenge presented to the market by the lack of stock. 45 per cent more chartered surveyors saw a fall in new instructions in June from a net balance of -31 per cent in May.

This is the steepest fall on record and extends a trend that has been in place since 2014.

Sales and prices decline in June
The market has also seen further decline in sales this month with a third successive monthly drop in activity. Contributors expect this trend to continue with 26 per cent more respondents anticipating a further drop in sales across the UK over the next three months. This is the most negative reading for near term expectations since 1998.

Housing imageHouse price growth saw a reduction in June and although prices are still rising, they are doing so at a more moderate pace. 16 per cent more respondents reported having seen prices rise rather than fall across the UK.

London remains the only region where respondents are seeing prices fall (-46 per cent net balance) with this largely being concentrated in the central zones. That said, near term price expectations are now in negative territory across the whole of the UK with 27 per cent more respondents across the UK expecting to see prices fall rather than rise over the next three months.

Looking further ahead over the next 12 months, sales expectations have turned negative for the first time in four years with 12 per cent more contributors expecting transactions to fall rather than rise.

The long-term picture
Big events such as elections typically do unsettle markets so it is no surprise that the EU referendum has been associated with a downturn in activity. However, even without the build up to the vote and subsequent decision in favour of Brexit, it is likely that the housing numbers would have slowed during the second quarter of the year, following the rush in many parts of the country from buy to let investors to secure purchases ahead of the tax changes.

Our data does suggest that the dip in activity will persist over the coming months but the critical influence looking further ahead is how the economy performs in the wake of the uncertainty triggered by the vote to leave.

Respondents to the survey are understandably cautious but with interest rates heading lower and sterling significantly so, it remains to be seen whether the concerns about a possible stalling in both corporate investment and recruitment are justified.

July 17, 2016

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