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London house prices suffer UK’s steepest annual fall ahead of original Brexit deadline

House prices in London plunged 1.9 per cent in the year to March, the largest annual fall in the country, ahead of the UK’s original Brexit date.

UK-wide house prices jumped 1.4 per cent over the twelve months, but in London the average property price fell almost two per cent to £463,000, according to HM Land Registry figures.

Homes in the capital also fell 0.4 per cent month-on-month in March as the drop continued in the run up to the anticipated Brexit date of 29 March.

Despite the fall, the figures show an improvement on the 2.7 per cent annual drop to February.

Former RICS residential chairman and north London estate agent Jeremy Leaf said: “Once again, we are seeing London acting as a drag on the rest of the UK housing market as despite improvements in affordability, almost record low mortgage rates and unemployment, combined with a shortage of stock.

“With prices down one month, up the next – no real pattern has emerged.”

Chief executive of online estate agent Housesimple, Sam Mitchell, said the data provided a “distorted picture” as they were based on sales completed during peak Brexit chaos.

He said: “January and February, when offers would have been made for March completions, was approaching the eye of the Brexit storm.

“That uncertainty, and the political squabbling in Parliament, fed through to buyer and seller confidence, particularly in London and surrounding areas.”

He added: “The market has now settled down, and with the EU leave date extended to the end of October, we are expecting more buyers and sellers to take advantage of this Brexit limbo, and relatively calm market conditions, to proceed with sales and purchases.”

By Callum Keown

Source: City AM

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UK housing market weathers Brexit clouds, but sharp gains unlikely – Reuters poll

Britain’s expensive housing market has so far weathered the uncertainty swirling around the country’s planned departure from the European Union, but average prices are unlikely to rise sharply and will fall in London this year, a Reuters poll found.

Nearly three years ago Britons surprised most of the world when they voted to split from the EU, yet it is still unclear how, when or even if the two sides will part ways.

Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday she would make a final attempt to get her Brexit divorce deal through parliament before she leaves office, something she has failed to manage three times already.

With no resolution in sight, Brexit uncertainty has affected property prices in the capital – long a magnet for foreign speculators – as people have shied away from investing, despite a fall in sterling since the referendum making UK housing a relatively cheaper investment.

Real estate agent Foxtons, which focuses on the London market, said on Monday UK property sales were running at record lows due to the impact of Brexit on consumer confidence.

According to the May 10-21 Reuters poll, prices will drop 2.0% in London this year, the same median forecast given in a February survey.

But that might not be a bad thing for buyers. When asked to describe the level of London house prices on a scale of 1 to 10 from extremely cheap to extremely expensive, the median response was 8.5, higher than in previous surveys. Nationally they were rated 6.0.

“It’s the same old story – housing is cheap for those with some capital behind them, given low funding costs, but very expensive in terms of the income multiple,” said Peter Dixon at Commerzbank.

The average annual British salary is about 30,000 pounds ($38,100) and yet the average asking price for a home in Britain was 308,290 pounds this month, and more than double that in London, property website Rightmove said.

For those already on the property ladder, borrowing money is cheap. The Bank of England has set Bank Rate at 0.75 percent and is not expected to raise it any time soon. [ECILT/GB]


Looking nationally, over 80% of respondents to an extra question in the poll said the housing market had so far weathered the Brexit uncertainty and price rises are expected to prove fairly robust.

Home values will gain 1.2% nationally this year – lagging expectations for general inflation – 2.0% next year and 2.5% in 2021, the poll of 23 housing market watchers said.

“The UK market has remained remarkably resilient,” said Russell Quirk at property website “So, just imagine the enormity of the ‘happy-ending’ that will prevail when the current political paralysis ends.”

Economists in another Reuters poll conducted earlier this month said Britain would eventually agree a free trade deal with the EU and London home prices are expected to rise 1.0% next year and 2.5% in 2021.

However, as negotiations to leave the club Britain joined in 1973 have proved protracted it does not bode well for when talks over future deals with global partners need to be agreed. Over three-quarters of respondents to an additional question said the risks to their forecasts were to the downside.

“Whilst everyone is conscious of Brexit we face a further 2-3 years after the Brexit Agreement to deal with the so-called implementation phase,” said independent buying agent Henry Pryor. “If you think getting the Withdrawal Agreement done was hard work, I expect you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

Polling by Sarmista Sen and Hari Kishan, Editing by William Maclean

Source: UK Reuters

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Scots property market attracts new investors

The Scottish property market is attracting a growing number of investors from England as landlord returns outperform the rest of the UK, according to a Helensburgh-based training company.

Touchstone Education, which runs courses in property investment across the UK, found that 78 per cent of its clients believe the greatest investment opportunities exist north of the Border.

In contrast, 50 per cent said they intend to target London, while 53 per cent opted for the south-east and 49 per cent for the south-west of England.

Touchstone pointed to rising rental yields in Scotland, which continue to grow while performance across the rest of the UK has flatlined.

The latest Your Move Scotland Rental Tracker showed average rents increased 1.8 per cent in the past 12 months to reach an average of £580.

Properties generated an average investment yield of 4.7 per cent in March – a six month high – while remaining unchanged in England and Wales.

Touchstone chief executive Paul Smith said: “Central Scotland is now the focus of a great deal of activity. Edinburgh has always provided consistent returns, but Glasgow is now the city that’s setting the pace.

“There’s a great deal of excitement about its growing tech, creative and financial services sectors which are attracting young, affluent workers from elsewhere in the country.

“The main exception in Scotland is, of course, Aberdeen whose property market continues to be negatively affected by the downturn in the oil and gas industries.”


Source: Scotsman

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First-time buyer purchases down 2.4%

The number of consumers borrowing to buy a new property was down across first-time buyers, home-movers and buy-to-let purchases in March, when compared with last year.

UK Finance’s mortgage lending trends, published today (May 16), showed there were about 28,800 first-time buyers with new homes in March — 2.4 per cent fewer than in the same month in 2018.

According to the trade body, this was the first month there had been a year-on-year decrease in first-time buyers since September 2018.

There was also a decline in the number of completed home-mover mortgages, which fell by 6 per cent to 25,280 compared to March 2018.

Mark Harris, chief executive of SPF Private Clients, said: “The decrease in number of first-time buyers after continuous growth over the past six months is a concern, and let’s hope it is just a blip in the numbers.

“First-time buyers are so important for the overall health of the housing market, ensuring transactions further up the chain can happen.”

The remortgage market continued to fare better however and in total, there were 4.1 per cent more residential remortgages in March than in the same month the year before.

Within this, there was a rise in the number of those who borrowed more money through their remortgage — up 9.1 per cent to 16,810 — while ‘pound for pound’ remortgages, where the consumer does not borrow any more money, dropped slightly by 1.1 per cent to 15,030.

This was the twelfth consecutive month of year-on-year growth in remortgaging and, according the UK Finance, this reflected the number of fixed-rate deals that are coming to an end as borrowers actively search for better, more attractive rates.

The remortgage market also grew in the buy-to-let sector but the purchase market declined.

About 5,000 new buy-to-let purchase mortgages completed in March, which was 9.1 per cent fewer than in the same month in 2018, while the number of remortgages increased by 3.9 per cent year-on-year to 14,400.

UK Finance stated the buy-to-let house purchase activity continued to contract due to tax and regulatory changes.

Gareth Lewis, commercial director of property lender MT Finance, agreed.

He added: “Remortgaging is up as those who bought before stamp duty hikes were introduced in 2016 are now remortgaging their fixed rates onto another competitive deal.

“Borrowers are taking out longer-term fixes on residential and buy-to-let deals as they protect themselves from wider uncertainty.”

In January, the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association warned that landlords would start to feel the pinch of new regulation in their tax returns for the first time, included the introduction of an additional 3 per cent stamp duty surcharge on second homes in April 2016 and cuts to mortgage interest tax relief.

Buy-to-let borrowers are also now subject to more stringent affordability testing under the Prudential Regulation Authority’s tightened underwriting rules.

Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, said despite potentially disappointing numbers, there were no significant movements one way or the other.

He said: “[These figures] reflect what we are seeing at the coalface — it is a bit busier one month but down the next and then up again.

“It is no surprise either that buy-to-let mortgages are continuing their downwards trend as landlords face an onslaught of tax and regulatory changes with more on the way.

“We are finding buy-to-let remortgaging increasing is down to properties having to work harder in order to maintain profit levels so this is likely to continue.”

By Imogen Tew

Source: FT Adviser

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Scots housing market outlook bright amid Brexit clouds says sector leader

DEMAND for new homes will remain strong in Scotland for years in spite of the uncertainty around Brexit the head of an influential sector player has predicted.

Richard Jennings, who heads Places for People’s operations in Scotland, said a range of factors will underpin demand for homes in Scotland where the organisation thinks the potential for growth is significant.

Places for People expects to lead on investment in affordable housing worth more than £300 million in coming years as it responds to factors such as the ageing population, growing numbers of people living alone and strong inward migration.

The organisation, which does not distribute dividends, operates in the social economy in Scotland through operations such as affordable housing heavyweight Castle Rock Edinvar. It also develops homes for sale in the wider commercial market.

Uncertainty about Brexit may be impacting on decision making among businesses but Places for People has not seen any sign the housing market is cooling.

“We’re not seeing any drop off in demand for housing,” said Mr Jennings, who noted a range of housebuilders have remained bullish about the Scottish market in recent months.

“Scotland will always attract inward migration, especially cities like Edinburgh because of its offer,” he predicted.

Mr Jennings said the quality of life on offer in the Edinburgh area and the strength of the employment market help give it enduring appeal, adding: “Glasgow is no different.”

He noted that Barclays had provided a major vote of confidence in Glasgow last year by announcing plans to develop a new hub on the banks of the Clyde that will house around 5,500 staff.

Other big employers are choosing Glasgow as a great place to invest. The availability of a skilled workforce combined with the fact the city has a very high retention rate for graduates, is helping to attract companies that are creating jobs.

“They’re all looking for somewhere to live, right across the spectrum. They’re not all going to settle down in the suburbs,” observed Mr Jennings, of the employees concerned.

Regarding the potential impact of Brexit on the flows of people, Mr Jennings said: “To meet the demands of the service and technology sectors and the care sector we’re going to need mechanisms to support inward migration.”

While there might be some short term flux, he is confident that politicians will find a solution although some champions of Brexit want to curb migration from EU countries.

With around 300 direct employees in Scotland, Places for People expects to play a key role in helping to meet the official target to build 50,000 affordable homes by 2021.

This will include Castle Rock Edinvar building 2,000 units years under a £150m programme.

Places for People also expects to raise £100m funding from the private sector to help build a further 1,000 units with the support of a £45m government loan.

Mr Jennings highlighted the role played by the Scottish Government in supporting investment in the sector in recent years.

He noted Places for People has developed strong expertise in the raising of funding for developments from private sector players through its fund management arm (PfP Capital).

The organisation has also acquired skills that allow it to play a part across the cycle, from designing new properties and communities in response to changing social needs to managing existing homes.

It is not just interested in growth for growth’s sake according to Mr Jennings, who said: “It’s about producing the rights types of homes in the right places and the right management support. We’re growing in numbers and our understanding.”

Places for People is marketing a range of developments across the UK. Its offer includes homes to rent or buy, retirement housing, supported living schemes and student accommodation.

Scottish projects include Tornagrain near Inverness, which is billed as the Highlands’ newest town. In Edinburgh Places for People is developing homes to buy and rent on the site of the former tram depot on Leith Walk.

Mr Jennings is enjoying working for Places for People after completing successful spells in both the private and public sectors.

Private sector work included management consulting at accountancy giant’s PwC and KPMG. In the public sector he was on the fast stream programme at the Scottish Government before going on to head the education and housing departments at East Lothian Council. The move to Places for People came in 2014, when Mr Jennings became head of property for Castle Rock Edinvar.

“I always find it’s not so much the sector it’s who’s helping to make change happen,” said Mr Jennings, who distinguished himself as a student by winning a Commonwealth scholarship to do doctoral studies in geomorphology in New Zealand.

“If you’re a geomorphologist New Zealand is like this little playground but it’s also a fantastic place to live,” observed Mr Jennings, who got his first degree, in geography from the University of Glasgow.

He has no regrets about deciding to leave academia.

“You’ve got the excitement of research and exploring ideas but the challenge for academics is that a lot of their time is taken up with navigating the bureaucracy of funding of meeting demands to be published. You’re spoiled as a student with the luxury of research and exploring new ideas.”

A native of the port city of Plymouth, Mr Jennings is very happy living in Scotland where he can indulge passions which include surfing at scenic spots on the east coast.

By Mark Williamson

Source: Herald Scotland

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Forecasting the housing market is tricky

It is fair to say the contrary evidence and forces at play in the UK’s housing market (let alone any expectations of international economic fillips or headwinds) are making forecasting the short-term future a tricky business.

At the end of March, the Office for National Statistics reported that British consumers had spent more than they earned for a record ninth consecutive quarter at the end of last year and in doing so offset falling business investment to underpin a measly rate of quarterly economic growth.

Consumers have underpinned Britain’s economic expansion since the Brexit referendum as businesses have slowed or ceased investing. But this support has come at a cost as spending has grown despite a fall in the pound that has reduced real incomes, meaning consumers have had to either borrow more or dip into their savings.

Could this behaviour explain the optimism reported in March by the Halifax that reported a 5.9% increase in February in house prices that lifted the average property price to £236,800?

This news predictably divided pundits (some arguing it was a correction to January’s poor figures) but another report by HMRC showed that the number of residential transactions totalled 101,170 in January 2019 – a monthly rise of 0.8% and an increase of 1.3% compared to January 2018.

All this would suggest that the housing market remains quite stable, and many maintain that the market should expect circa 1.2 million home sales for this year, as there have been in every year since 2013.

But completions data is clearly based on sales agreed as much as three months ago. Certainly at the front end of the value chain, few estate agencies are sounding overly positive about sales.

News of closures is not uncommon and Winkworth’s trading statement released in March reflected a common sentiment that while its rental side blossomed, sales suffered thanks to the familiar cocktail of Brexit, uncertainty and affordability issues.

It’s clear that, notwithstanding our current turmoil, certain long-term factors continue to impact the market. We are missing our new build targets and we have higher numbers of people who want to buy, living in private rented accommodation.

The chances of owning your own home, if you were born since the 1980s, have melted away. Supply, affordability and a lack of transactions continue to thwart society. The housing market needs more policy thought, more supply and more delivery if it is to deliver a meaningful economic and political purpose.

In the short-term, everyone appears to be hoping for a post Brexit bounce that will temporarily unlock the market and allow sellers to come forward and deliver buying demand and increased transactions.

But whatever the next few weeks bring for our nation, we should not mistake any short-term improvement in activity for a ‘fix’ to our market. Our energy and our efforts should be refocused on dealing with our housing market’s longer-term problems.

By Joanne Atkin

Source: Mortgage Finance Gazette

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UK housing market: Limited supply holds back spring bounce

House prices in the UK have seen a noticeable slowdown over the last two years, and despite Brexit being kicked down the road to October, things haven’t perked up much for the property market. Brexit uncertainty, coupled with a lack of available stock, continue to make people feel nervous about buying and selling their homes and there seems to be little sense of a turnaround anytime soon.

According to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) sentiment survey, the balance between the proportion of surveyors seeing house prices rise to those seeing a fall in April has remained unchanged at -23%. This is in line with recently released government numbers which suggest average prices in the UK grew by a marginal 0.6% in February compared to a year earlier – the smallest rise since September 2012.

Despite all the doom and gloom, it’s worth noting that price expectations for UK houses over the next twelve months are modestly positive

London and the South East appear to be the weakest link where things appear to be particularly troubling, as prices in London alone fell by 3.8% year-on-year. Brexit uncertainty, coupled with changes to stamp duty and tax treatment of rental income, has hit the capital harder than the rest of the country. Property valuations in London are typically much higher and rental yields lower than in other UK regions.

But there is also a clear divergence in the number of properties on the market. In London, estate agents are reporting fairly average levels of properties on their books, resulting in very poor sales-to-stock ratios, and thereby putting further pressure on prices. Elsewhere in the country, the stock is much more limited and in many cases, well below average. The RICS survey suggests fewer properties are coming to the market too, as sellers continue to withhold stock thereby limiting choice for potential buyers. A net balance of 35% of surveyors has seen a fall in instructions during April – the poorest reading since June 2016.

But despite all the doom and gloom, it’s worth noting that price expectations for the next twelve months are modestly positive. Scotland and Northern Ireland have already been bucking the trend where prices continue to rise.

What’s going on in the lettings market?

As affordability bites, first-time buyers continue to postpone their purchases to save for a larger deposit, which increases the size of the rental sector.

The survey suggests the upcoming letting fees ban, which prevents landlords from charging tenants for credit checks and references and proposed plans to get rid of section 21, which allows them to evict tenants at short notice, could potentially make some landlords leave the market altogether. These changes come on top of the recent stamp duty changes which have seen buy-to-let investors facing an extra 3% charge, prompting another sharp fall in landlord instructions.

However, in the long-term, these changes need not necessarily be viewed negatively, as a larger rental market may offset tax distortions that currently discourage renting in the UK.

What does all of this mean for the economy?

Given how important consumer confidence is for the housing market, the temporary dip in Brexit noise, rising wage growth story and a strong jobs market should all, in theory, be positive factors, at least in the near-term. However, the latest Bank of England credit conditions survey suggests that demand for secured lending for house purchases is expected to decrease further in 2Q, suggesting the tide in the property market is not likely to change rapidly.

Still, we don’t expect the property market to feature too heavily in the Bank of England’s future decision on interest rates. Over half of mortgage holders are on a fixed-rate product, compared to around 30% back in 2012.

This means that consumers are generally less exposed to the impact of gradual rate rises and the outlook for interest rates will continue to hinge on the outlook for investment, which we expect to remain pressured by ongoing uncertainty. We currently don’t expect a rate hike this year, although having said that, recent comments from Governor Mark Carney suggest a November move shouldn’t be ruled out if Article 50 is extended again.

By James Smith

Source: Think Ing

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UK house prices: Experts warn of ‘volatile’ UK housing market after sharp April growth

Experts today warned that volatility is affecting the UK housing market as Halifax recorded a sharp annual jump in house prices in April.

UK homes are now worth an average £236,619 following the stark five per cent rise for the three months to April, compared to the same period in 2018, Halifax’s house price index revealed.

House prices also climbed 4.2 per cent in the latest quarter compared to the previous three months, while April saw a 1.1 per cent rise compared to March.

London helped push up April’s house price growth after a higher volume of London sales and pricier new build properties.

However, Halifax warned demand and supply also “remained subdued”.

Russell Galley, managing director of Halifax, said: “The index has seen a weaker pace of growth over the last three years, which is consistent with the easing of transactions volumes and housing market activity reflected in Rics, Bank of England and HMRC figures.”

UK house price volatility

Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club, warned that the Halifax index has been “particularly volatile” in recent months and called the five per cent growth figure “very much an outlier”.

It compares to Nationwide’s weak 0.9 per cent annual growth estimate and the Land Registry’s even worse estimate of 0.6 per cent growth.

“There are overall signs that house prices may have picked up slightly from the lows at the start of the year, which may well be the consequence of recent improved consumer purchasing power and robust employment growth,” Archer admitted.

“Nevertheless, conditions still look pretty challenging for the housing market.”

He pointed to steep house prices, and London house prices and the south east acting as a brake on the wider market.

Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former Rics residential chairman, said the figures signal “a spring bounce but not as great as we might have expected”.

“The market is quite volatile, bearing in mind the fall in prices last month,” he added. “The price increases recorded are probably more to do with shortages of stock and lower transactions than sustainable market strength.”

Brian Murphy, head of lending for Mortgage Advice Bureau, said the latest data “proves yet again how erratic any monthly changes to average property prices can be”.

“The year on year growth figures in April appear more consistent with the picture from the previous month, although it’s likely that this is being supported by the ongoing lack of properties for sale in many parts of the UK,” he said.

“With the usual spring market perhaps not quite as bouncy as usual, we’re seeing continued lender competition as mortgage rates remain at or close to record lows.”

Sam Mitchell, chief executive of online estate agents Housesimple, said: “This bumpy ride is symptomatic of a property market that continues to be held back by low stock levels and ongoing uncertainty around Brexit which is making buyers hesitant to commit.”

Is UK housing market recovery really on?

Halifax faced criticism when it said UK house prices grew 5.9 per cent in February, but

Jonathan Hopper, managing director of Garrington Property Finders, said the latest annual rise suggests February’s data “was no blip, but the start of a fightback”.

“April was that rarest of beasts – a month in which Brexit uncertainty eased substantially. While this backdrop explains some of the market’s ‘relaxation rally’, it’s worth noting that it also released some pent-up buyer demand,” he said.

“The question now is whether a return to Brexit deadlock will put the cork back in the bottle, or whether the market has gathered enough momentum to continue to flow freely.”

Sam Mitchell, chief executive of online estate agents Housesimple, said: “This bumpy ride is symptomatic of a property market that continues to be held back by low stock levels and ongoing uncertainty around Brexit which is making buyers hesitant to commit.”

Housesimple’s Mitchell added that the extended Halloween Brexit deadline could benefit the housing market.

“We could well see a late spring bounce, as sellers and buyers take advantage of this window of opportunity while there is less political turmoil swirling around, to progress a sale or purchase,” he said.

However, while EY’s Archer admitted avoiding an imminent no-deal Brexit in March may provide a “modest boost” to house prices, the new delay will just fuel market hesitancy.

“Prolonged uncertainty will weigh down on the economy and hamper housing market activity. Consequently, we suspect house prices will rise only one per cent over the year,” he predicted.

By Joe Curtis

Source: City AM

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UK annual house price growth hits two-year high in April – Halifax

British annual house price growth picked up more than expected last month to hit its highest in over two years, mortgage lender Halifax said on Wednesday, contrasting with other signs of a muted housing market.

House prices in the three months to April stood 5.0 percent higher than a year ago, the strongest growth since February 2017 and a marked increase from the 2.6 percent rise recorded for the three months to March.

The reading came in above all forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists that had pointed to an annual increase of 4.5 percent in the three months to April.

“The surge in house prices reported by Halifax cannot be reconciled with any other evidence from the housing market. Less volatile measures paint a far more subdued picture,” said Samuel Tombs, economist at Pantheon Economics.

Halifax said the year-on-year gains reflected unusually weak prices in April 2018, as well as more sales of more expensive newly built homes and a bigger proportion of sales coming from London, where house prices are above average.

Bank of England data last week showed British lenders approved the fewest mortgages in March since December 2017, and that consumer borrowing slowed sharply in the run-up to the original Brexit deadline of March 29.

While house prices have been rising across the country as a whole, prices in London have fallen according to various indicators, hit by unaffordable prices for many buyers, tax changes affecting the buy-to-let market and Brexit uncertainty which has weighed heavily on the capital.

Halifax said house prices in April alone rose 1.1 percent, again stronger than all forecasts in the Reuters poll that had pointed to an increase of just 0.1 percent. However, this represented only a partial recovery from March’s 1.3 percent drop.

Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by David Milliken

Source: UK Reuters

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Edinburgh housing market activity ‘highest since credit crunch’ and resisting Brexit pressure

Property market activity in Edinburgh is at its highest level since the credit crunch and shows no sign of slowing down because of Brexit, according to Warners Solicitors & Estate Agents.

Between January and March, Warners recorded over 250 property sales – an annual increase of over 40 per cent compared to the same period in 2018 – and brought almost 300 properties to the market.

David Marshall, operations director with Warners, said: “There had been a feeling that activity in the local property market would be subdued in the early part of 2019 as people were expected to wait and see the outcome of Brexit negotiations before deciding to buy or sell. This has not been borne out in reality.

“The rise in the number of homes coming onto the market that we have seen has been the greatest improvement in the market over the last two years.

“In 2016 and 2017 many people were having to delay selling their own home because they couldn’t find a property that they wanted to buy.

“As more homes have become available it has made this problem far less common. Buyers are more often able to find a home that they want, while most sellers are still able to sell their properties quickly.”

Mr Marshall added: “With the pressure on buyers having eased, house price inflation has also come back down to more manageable levels.

“The latest figures from ESPC show that the average house price in Edinburgh rose by 1.8 per cent annually during the first quarter, well below the rate of inflation observed during 2017 and 2018.

“The levels of inflation that we are now seeing are much more sustainable over the longer term so this is good news for the health of the market and, as we move forward, we would expect to see inflation continue in the region of one to three per cent for much of 2019.”

Source: Scottish Legal