UK house sales fell by 19% annually in March – HMRC figures

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The number of house sales in March slumped by nearly one-fifth compared with the same month a year earlier, according to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) figures.

Across the UK, 89,560 home sales took place in March 2023, which was 19% lower than March 2022.

Sales did, however, edge up compared with the previous month, increasing by 1% on February 2023.

Tom Bill, head of UK residential research at estate agent Knight Frank, said: “The steep drop in property sales that followed the shock of the mini-budget (last autumn) has bottomed out.

“The mortgage market has stabilised and buyers increasingly accept they are in a new lending landscape after 14 years of ultra-low rates.

Iain McKenzie, CEO of the Guild of Property Professionals, said: “There is some light at the end of the tunnel as house sales show signs of recovery after a winter of gloomy figures.

“Estate agents have used the last six months to replenish their stock and have more properties available to offer buyers. It is positive to see that this is boosting sales, albeit in modest numbers.

“The annual picture still indicates a significant drop-off compared to this time last year. While that may be true, don’t forget the turbulent scenes back then fuelled by the frenzied competition for housing and a shortage of properties.”

Sarah Coles, head of personal finance at financial services provider Hargreaves Lansdown said: “There’s some hope to be gleaned from the fact that even in this market, spring is working some of its magic.”

“We know that mortgage rates will play a key role, but while gradual reductions have helped support sales, rate reductions have paused.”

Danny Belton, head of lender relationships, Legal & General Mortgage Club said: “It is positive to see an uptick in transactions from February to March kickstarting a strong spring selling season. This is supported by a growing number of mortgage products coming to market.”

Nicky Stevenson, managing director at estate agent group Fine & Country said:​ “Sales remain down compared to last year, but this is to be expected as it was an historic outlier. Last year’s sales were driven by the frantic search for bigger homes, which caused a shortage in the supply of properties.

“The market this year is much more stable than it was in 2022, with the ratio of new sales to instructions returning to pre-pandemic levels thanks to rising confidence among buyers and sellers.”

Alex Lyle, director of London-based estate agency Antony Roberts, said: “Everything is taking longer this year, so buyers and sellers alike must ensure they have all their paperwork in order, and a good solicitor in place, to ensure deals proceed as smoothly and successfully as possible.”

Ross McMillan, owner of Glasgow-based Blue Fish Mortgage Solutions said: “The Scottish market certainly has signs of heat within it in many areas.”

Emma Cox, MD of real estate at Shawbrook, said: “Given how long it can take to complete a purchase, it’s likely a lag from Christmas when the market is typically quiet anyway, compounded by soaring inflation and mortgage rates at that time.

“We’ve seen increased demand from professional property investors, who are making the most of opportunities in the market, and I’m confident that as spring turns into summer, we’ll see a positive trend emerge.”

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients said: “Swap rates, which underpin the pricing of fixed-rate mortgages, have risen again on the back of the disappointing inflation news.

“Borrowers may be tempted to wait for rates to fall further but there is a danger that they might be waiting for some time, while sitting on their lender’s much higher standard variable rate.”

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