Save, make, understand money

First-time Buyer

Property sales fall 18% year-on-year

Nick Cheek
Written By:
Nick Cheek

Seasonally adjusted residential transactions came to 90,340 in February, an 18% year-on-year fall compared to last year and 4% down on January.

HMRC said that figures were also down on pre-pandemic figures with seasonally-adjusted residential property transactions coming to 142,460 in February 2021 and 97,290 in February 2020.

It added that seasonally adjusted residential property transactions “appear depressed, indicating a slowing of the housing market”.

HMRC noted that UK residential transactions have been generally stable over the past few months but transactions were starting to decline.

It continued that at the tail-end of last year, mortgage and interest rates had increased and the impact of those changes were starting to become apparent.

No quick fix

Experts noted that the cost-of-living crisis and the mini Budget had had a dramatic effect on housing transactions. And they also highlighted the fact that the lack of transactions would be likely to force down house prices.

Karen Noye, mortgage expert at Quilter, said: “The HMRC data suggests that the current economic conditions, including the high cost of living, rising interest rates, and unaffordable mortgages, are having a significant impact on the housing market.

“For the time being, the lack of transactions in the market will have a material impact on house prices, pushing them downwards as sellers compete for buyers, reversing how the market has operated over the last few years.

“For those eyeing up a property purchase, the mortgage market does look set to be relatively static over the coming weeks and months. House prices may continue to suffer, but due to issues with Credit Suisse, it is not so clear-cut that the Bank of England will further raise interest rates on Thursday and wait to see whether any further dominos fall after the investment bank was bought by UBS.”

Sarah Coles, head of personal finance, Hargreaves Lansdown added that there was unlikely to be a pick-up in transactions any time soon.

She said: “Mini Budget misery crashed property sales at the start of this year. They plummeted in January, and on a seasonally-adjusted basis, they fell again in February. They’re the worst February figures in a decade.

“We’re not expecting things to pick up much in the next couple of months. Earlier this month, the RICS Residential Market Survey charted its tenth month of falling buyer numbers, and eighth month of falling agreed sales. It also said that sales are now taking almost 19 weeks, as recalcitrant buyers drag their feet. Because of the lag in the market, this is likely to mean depressed completions through the spring and into the summer.

“The question is whether we get the usual pick up in agreed sales this summer, and the jury is still out. Any optimism is based on mortgage rates dropping even further, helping with both affordability and confidence levels from buyers. However, this makes two assumptions that are far from foregone conclusions.”