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Property transactions remain stagnant

The number of residential property transactions in the UK in December decreased on a monthly basis but it experienced a mild increase year-on-year, official data has shown.

The provisional UK property transaction count for December 2018, for properties above £40,000, was 102,330, according to the latest report from HM Revenue and Customs.

This meant transactions were down 0.1 per cent on November but they were up 3.6 per cent when compared with December 2017, when it was 98,760 transactions.

Kevin Roberts, director at Legal & General Mortgage Club, said: “The mortgage market is offering more choice and flexibility than ever before; however, transaction levels continue to tell the same story of stagnation.

“Political uncertainty, the cost of moving and barriers such as stamp duty are leading some homeowners to ‘improve, not move.’

“The government’s extension of the Help to Buy scheme and a stamp duty exemption to shared ownership properties will help those further down the ladder, yet there is more work to be done.

“Extending this break to last-time buyers would free up larger properties for growing families, enabling the next generation of homebuyers to step onto or even up the property ladder.”

Data released last week showed first-time buyers and remortgages continued to drive the UK housing market towards the end of 2018, as homeowners benefitted from competitive deals and housing schemes.

More than 35,000 new first-time buyer mortgages completed in November 2018, up 5.8 per cent when compared with the same month in 2017 and at a value of £6bn, according to UK Finance’s November Trends update.

But UK Finance also found the buy-to-let market had seen 9 per cent fewer new home purchase mortgages in November 2018 than it did a year earlier, while remortgages in this sector increased by 9.5 per cent.

The Help to Buy scheme was launched in 2013 and is available for new build properties, offering a government loan of up to 20 per cent of the home’s value.

In the October budget Chancellor Philip Hammond confirmed the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme would be extended until 2023 from its previous 2021 deadline.

The HMRC data meanwhile showed the number of non-residential property transactions increased by 5.5 per cent between November 2018 and December 2018.

This figure was 5.4 per cent higher than in the same month last year.

Source: FT Adviser

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Property transactions down in September

There were 98,400 residential property transactions in September, down 0.5% from August and 2.7% year-on-year, HMRC property statistics showed.

Similarly the seasonally adjusted estimate showed 9,450 non-residential property transactions in August, decreasing by 6.7% from September and 7.3% lower than that last year.

Steve Seal, director of sales and marketing, Bluestone Mortgages, said: “Again, it’s the same story as last month, and the month before. Seasonal activity continues to remain flat, with rising living costs and house prices discouraging many aspiring homeowners from entering the property market.

“We mustn’t also forget the added burden of saving enough money on the side to cover a mortgage deposit.

“Building more affordable housing isn’t new news. However, it’s not just a question of building more ‘one size fits all’ housing, but building stock across all the different stages of the housing cycle.

“Demand may outweigh supply in London, for example, but in other parts of the UK, supply outweighs demand due to a lack of appropriate housing stock for aspiring families or those looking to downsize.

“With a week until the Autumn Budget, it is vital that the industry and government work together to address these issues and commit to a long-term genuine plan.”

Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, added: “Transactions will always be a much better test of property market health than prices.

“These numbers show the patient to be in reasonable condition but still fairly weak so vulnerable to any unpleasant Budget medicine which may stall their recovery.

“On the ground, some buyers and sellers are cautiously coming to the market but in nowhere near the numbers hoped for or expected. As a result, sentiment is not strong and only those prepared to negotiate hard are successful.

“The content of the Budget, one way or the other, will make a difference to property market prospects for the rest of this year, as will the conclusion of the Brexit negotiations.”

Andy Sommerville, director at Search Acumen, illustrated that property transactions took a dip at the end of the summer as the property market cooled down in September, and also highlighted the significance of the upcoming Budget on 29 October.

He said: “Property transactions took a dip at the end of the summer as the property market cooled down in September. After a strong August, activity in UK housing has sunk back down to earth.

“Overall however, transaction figures prove that talk of a housing market crash at the hands of Brexit uncertainty is seemingly overdone.

“While London continues to suffer from a significant property market freeze, the housing market outside the capital continues to be active. People are ignoring the lack of clarity from the government and are instead pressing ahead with the business of buying and selling homes.

“Looking ahead to next week’s Budget, it would be surprising if the Chancellor didn’t continue his support for first-time buyers who have been a major engine that’s helped keep the UK’s housing market moving through 2018.

“The entire property sector is hoping for a helping hand to keep what momentum we do have going into 2019.”

Source: Mortgage Introducer