The number of properties available to buy in March, traditionally the busiest month for listings, hit the lowest level on record, according to the National Association of Estate Agents’ (NAEA) Propertymark’s March 2019 Housing Report.
However, in contrast, the number of rental properties managed per letting agency branch rose, according to the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA).
The sales market
While the average of 37 properties per estate agent branch is an increase of three compared to February, it is a drop on typical March figures. When records began in 2013, the average figure was sixty properties per branch.
The number of agreed sales remained steady at seven per branch, consistent with the previous two months.
However, the number of first-time buyers dropped from 30% of agreed sales to just 26% in comparison to February.
Demand from potential purchasers also dropped to the lowest level for March since data was first recorded in 2013, with 296 house hunters registered per branch. This did represent an increase of 44 compared to the 252 buyers registered in February 2019.
Mark Hayward, Chief Executive of NAEA Propertymark, said: ‘Despite the fact that activity in the housing market increased in March, the levels of supply and demand recorded aren’t where we would expect them to be at this time of year.
‘It’s clear buyers and sellers are still feeling cautious and holding off on making any decisions in light of the current political climate and economic uncertainty.
‘However, recent house price data indicates we might see confidence in the market grow as house prices slowly begin to return to previous levels and we edge closer to the summer months.’
The lettings market
In direct contrast to the downturn in properties for sale, the lettings market is performing strongly. The research from ARLA revealed that the average number of properties managed per lettings branch rose from 197 in February to 203 in March, the highest since records began in 2015. This represents a 13% increase on the 179 managed in March 2018.
Demand from prospective tenant also increased, with the number of registered tenants rising from 65 in February to 67.
Rent rises fell from 34% of landlords increasing rents, to 30%, compared to February, but this was an increase from the 23% the previous March.
However, the number of landlords leaving the rental market rose to four per branch from three in March 2018. This remained consistent with February.
‘Whilst its really positive that the number of properties available per branch hit a record high last month, this may be the first signs of the industry consolidating ahead of the tenant fees ban as agents either sell-up or merge,’ said David Cox, ARLA Chief Executive.
‘This, coupled with landlords exiting the market and rent costs continuing to rise, means the overall picture is far from positive for renters. The full effects of the tenant fees ban have not yet been felt, and now the Government is introducing yet more new legislation which will deter new landlords from entering the market, such as abolishing Section 21,’ he pointed out.
‘Until we have greater clarity on the changes planned, this news will only increase pressure on the sector and discourage new landlords from investing, meaning rents will only continue to rise for tenants,’ he added.