No ‘new year, new me’ for the UK housing market

The UK housing market has started the new year off in a similar fashion to the closing stages of 2017, according to the January 2018 RICS UK Residential Market Survey.

Survey in brief
  • Enquiries, sales and instructions remain negative
  • Prices edge higher at the national level but continue to decline in some parts of the country
  • More expensive tiers of the housing market still experiencing tougher conditions

The housing market has a case of the January blues

In January, new buyer enquiries, instructions and sales all continued to drift lower, while the three month expectations for agreed sales points to a flat picture in the coming months. Having said that, there is more optimism regarding the twelve month sales projections which are now modestly positive in virtually all parts of the country, this optimism is also visible in the accompanying comments from contributors to the survey.

For a tenth month in succession nationally in January, new buyer enquiries across the UK declined with 11% more respondents reporting a fall rather than rise. Similarly, newly agreed sales also slipped, extending the run of negative readings back to last February. Going forward, a relatively stable sales trend is expected to emerge in the near term, while respondents envisage sales picking-up over the next twelve months as a whole.

There is, however, no sign of an upturn in the flow of properties coming to the market in the UK, and with 17% more respondents seeing a further decline in new instructions, the January figure was the weakest since May 2017. Significantly, the pipeline for instructions does also not appear to be improving, with 10% more respondents across the UK as a whole noting the number of valuations undertaken was below the figure for the equivalent period last year.

What does this mean for house prices?

Moving to prices, the national price balance remained unchanged from December with 8% more respondents seeing a rise in prices nationally. This is consistent with further modest price growth.

Regional price trends, however, do continue to differ significantly. The London figure remains in negative territory, and falling prices are also reported across the South East, East Anglia and the North East (albeit all to a much lesser extent than London). On the opposite end of the scale, the North West of England, Northern Ireland and Wales posted the strongest price growth (in net balance terms).

Looking at price expectations, these over the next three months nationally remain flat pointing to the pace of price growth potentially easing in some parts of the UK. However, looking twelve months ahead, price expectations are positive in eleven of the twelve regions/countries covered by the survey. London was again the exception, although the net balance has turned less negative, moving from -41% to -21% (the least negative in six months).

Lettings market

In the lettings market, tenant demand edged up in the three months to January, but landlord instructions fell back slightly once more. This imbalance prompted positive rental growth expectations for the near term.

The regional renting picture remains as varied as the buying market. Rent expectations are still negative in London, although to a lesser extent than any other quarter since 2016. Meanwhile, rents are anticipated to see little change in the South East on the same basis. Elsewhere they are generally expected to move higher.


Kindly shared by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors