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Homebuyer enquiries and agreed sales at highest level since last summer

Emma Lunn
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Emma Lunn

New homebuyer enquiries and property sales agreed in March were at their highest level since last summer driven by the extension to the stamp duty holiday, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) market report.

Demand for homes is now so high it is outstripping the supply of properties listed for sale.

Nationally, 42% more surveyors saw a rise in new buyer enquiries than those who noted a fall marking the strongest response since September. In February, the same amount of surveyors said they had seen a rise in enquiries as those who had reported a decline.

Agreed sales rose sharply last month, with 50% more surveyors reporting a rise than those who say they had seen a decline, which compares to 7% more last month and is the strongest reading since August.

The chancellor’s Budget announcement that the stamp duty holiday would be extended until the end of June before tapering off was a significant driving force behind the renewed momentum, according to RICS.

Meanwhile, the gradual loosening of lockdown restrictions is also thought to be contributing to the rise in activity.

The outlook for sales in the near term is the most upbeat since January 2020. Sales expectations are positive across the UK but this rise in sales is forecast to be restricted to the next few months.

Demand outstripping supply

New home listings have improved month-on-month but the pace of the increase is not enough to keep up with demand.

However, the pipeline for new listings is expected to improve in the next few months as surveyors note a rise in requests from homeowners to have their house appraised ahead of putting the property on the market.

As demand continues to outpace supply, house prices are expected to continue rising over the next three months.

In 12 months’ time, 60% more surveyors expect house prices to have risen than those who forecast a drop. This compares to a 46% lead last month.

Anthony Codling, chief executive of property platform Twindig, said: “Housing market activity and prices had started to decline as the stamp duty deadline approached, but the stamp duty holiday extension was a shot in the arm for the UK housing market.

“Short-term stimulus packages do not provide the answer to the long-term nature of the housing crisis we find ourselves in, they exacerbate the highs and lows rather than providing a path to market equilibrium.”