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Buyer enquiries and house sales have flattened in the UK in the run up to the general election, according to the latest monthly market survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. In most parts of the country, the supply versus demand imbalance led to 21% more surveyors reporting a rise in house prices in March, up from 15% in February, and 15% more surveyors expecting prices to increase over the next three months compared with 10% in February but the results for both are significantly lower than in March 2014. Nationally, Northern Ireland continues to outperform the rest of the UK with the strongest house price growth in March and the highest price expectations over the next three months. However, across much of the rest of the UK, particularly in Wales and Scotland, price gains over the next three months are expected to be much more moderate. In London, a lack of prospective buyers saw enquiries and the number of agreed sales both fall for the eleventh consecutive month and 24% more surveyors reported a decline in the number of new properties coming onto the market for sale. However, compared to the start of the year when 42% more surveyors reported a decrease in prices, just 13% more surveyors saw prices fall in March and across the whole of the UK, the average surveyor sold 19.5 properties, reflecting activity since Autumn, although it remains some way down on where it was in the early part of 2014. The boost that was given to the housing market by the Help to Buy scheme has begun to dissipate and activity levels have slipped back as a result, according to Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist. ‘Even more worrying are the tentative signs that price momentum could be set to pick up once again as the supply of stock to the market continues to fall. Anecdotal evidence does suggest that election uncertainty may be having some impact on the market, but underlying the trends visible in the latest survey is a very real housing crisis which will urgently need to be addressed by the next government,’ he explained. ‘It is significant that price expectations nationally are accelerating both at the three and twelve month time horizons and at the latter they are at their highest level since the spring of last year,’ he added. Continue reading →
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