Surveyors’ expectations for house sales in the first quarter of 2019 are the lowest for over 20 years, a new report has found.
Fully 28% of surveyors were predicting a decline in the market rather than an improvement. It’s the most downbeat reading since records began in October 1998, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
All in all, its December 2018 survey found numerous key indicators that activity in the UK housing market would continue to slip.
It’s bleak news for the housing market, with sales expectations for Q1 now either flat or negative across all parts of the UK as continued uncertainty and disruption play havoc with the housing market.
Looking further ahead though, surveyors are upbeat for 2020, a fact which suggests underlying confidence that UK housing market issues are primarily underpinned by issues around Brexit, rather than anything more long term.
Other issues identified include a lack of supply and over-inflated house prices making the market an unappealing place for buyers. It’s a notion borne out by the fact that new buyer inquiries fell for the fifth month in a row in December.
Simon Rubinsohn, the RICS chief economist, said: "It is hardly a surprise with ongoing uncertainty about the path to Brexit dominating the news agenda, that even allowing for the normal patterns around the Christmas holidays, buyer interest in purchasing property in December was subdued.
"This is also very clearly reflected in a worsening trend in near-term sales expectations.
"Looking a little further out, there is some comfort provided by the suggestion that transactions nationally should stabilise as some of the fog lifts, but that moment feels a way off for many respondents to the survey."
"Meanwhile it is hard to see developers stepping up the supply pipeline in this environment."
He said that to get near to government building targets, this "will require significantly greater input from other delivery channels including local authorities".
The news comes at a time when new government figures have found that Leeds is lagging behind in regards to completing new build homes, a fact which bucks the trend of homebuilding in England which hit their highest level for a decade during the first nine months of 2018.
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data shows that 1,270 houses were completed during the period, down from 1,330 the previous year. Buildings started during the same period sat at 1,380, down significantly from 2,370 during the same period in 2017.
However, these numbers only include new homes built and not conversions of homes into flats or changes of use from offices to dwellings - of which Leeds has seen a great many over the last decade.
Their numbers reveal that private developers funded a total of 86% of new homes with housing associations making up the remaining 14%.
In response, housing charity Shelter’s Chief Executive Polly Neate said that the Government had to increase its efforts to reach its target of 300,000 new homes a year.
She said: “The fact housebuilding rates have picked up since the start of the decade is a welcome sign, but the government still needs to make giant strides. “To achieve this, it simply cannot rely on private developers alone – building social homes must be top of the agenda.”