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Flat purchases drive property sales agreed to pre-pandemic levels

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Agreed property sales have reached near pre-pandemic levels for the first time since September, driven by growth in flat purchases.

According to Rightmove statistics, sales agreed between sellers and buyers are 1% behind March 2019 levels.

Flat sales are 10% higher than in March 2019, an uplift from 11%  down at the start of the year.

Regional performance

London showed the most pronounced recovery, with flat sales up by nearly a quarter compared to March 2019.

This was followed by the North East at plus 5% and Scotland and the South East at plus 2% respectively.

The region that reported the largest dip in overall sales agreed compared to March 2019 was the East Midlands at negative 11%. West Midlands reported an 8% drop compared to pre-pandemic levels and the North West had a 4% fall.

Rightmove said that across the UK sales agreed were 18% below last year’s figures, which it said has been “exceptionally busy”.

The East of England reported a 27% fall in sales agreed compared to the same period in 2022, followed by the South East at negative 23% and East Midlands at negative 21%.

Price reductions

The company added that average mortgage rates had edged down, with a five-year fixed rate for homeowners with a 15% deposit now at 4.63% in March, down from 5.89% in October.

The average size of property price reductions from first to last listing price is returning to its pre-pandemic level of 6%, which is equal to £22,000 based on the current national average asking price.

The figure had dropped to 5% during the pandemic.

A third of sellers are reducing their initial asking price, which is up from 19% last year.

Market is ‘surprisingly robust’

Rightmove’s property expert Tim Bannister said that the market was “surprisingly robust” despite economic headwinds that had impacted movers over the last six months.

“While the market is by no means at the exceptional level it has been over the last couple of years, it is a positive sign for agents that sales at a national level are being agreed at the same rate as the last more normal market of 2019, though there are regional differences across Great Britain.

“The level and size of reductions has also returned to its pre-pandemic norm, though pricing right the first time can often lead to a quicker sale, so it’s important for sellers to speak to an agent about their local market so that they price realistically and give themselves the best chance of finding a buyer,” he added.

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