UK property transactions fell four per cent in February as the fall out from last September’s mini budget continued to drive down the UK’s housing market.
Sales of residential property fell 18 per cent during the year with just 76,920 transaction across the UK, as buyers were forced to deal with higher borrowing costs as a result of higher interest rates.
“Today’s figures reflect the air of reservation from homebuyers that followed Liz Truss’ time in power and the mini-budget fallout which then began,” said Nick Leeming, chairman of estate agent Jackson-Stops.
After Prime Minister Liz Truss’ mini budget last September mortgage rates shot up to 6.65 per cent.
Alongside soaring inflation and fears that the UK would enter a recession, higher rates helped add to housing market volatility and appeared to slow down the sale process.
Figures from Halifax have shown that the cost of securing a house deposit soared 32 per cent in the last year- making the prospect of owning a home even more inaccessible for prospective buyers.
“Residential property transactions remained subdued in February as the fallout from last year’s mortgage market turmoil continues to feed into completed sales, though numbers remain at more than 90 per cent of their pre-pandemic levels for the month,” said Frances McDonald, director of residential research at Savills.
He continued: “Lead indicators suggest that this slowdown is likely to continue as mortgage approvals in January were 41 per cent below their pre-Covid average for the month, according to the Bank of England. However, total agreed sales remain surprisingly robust, at 93 per cent of their pre-pandemic level in January, according to TwentyCi.
“This suggests that cash buyers are supporting overall transaction levels and are continuing to take a greater share of the market, particularly at the top end, which is in line with our forecasts for this year.”
Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, said the more stable picture in transactions after successive falls underlines the impact on the housing market of September’s mini Budget, which has not quite run its course.
He added: “These figures are a better indication of activity over the past few months than house prices. Confidence has slowly returned, now that interest rates and inflation are starting to fall, while the market is less competitive and more price sensitive. Many are encouraged to dip a toe in the water after failing to find a property in the stamp duty holiday-inspired frenzy.”
Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: “Transaction numbers may have dipped year-on-year given uncertainty around mortgage rates in particular.
“After years of little movement in rates, borrowers are becoming accustomed to volatility in the mortgage market, with the chance of a hold in base rate at the next Bank of England meeting now more likely on the back of recent turmoil in the banking industry.
“Swap rates, which underpin the pricing of fixed-rate mortgages, have started falling again, and a number of high-profile lenders have reduced fixed rates, including Santander, which is launching a sub-4 per cent five-year fix today.
“Borrowers may be tempted to wait for rates to fall further but there is a danger that they might not and trying to predict interest rates can be a dangerous game. Seeking advice from a whole-of-market broker as to the options available is crucial.”