The UK’s snap general election has chilled the housing market, according to a survey of estate agents and surveyors.
House sales fell in May for the second month running, according to a monthly survey by the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors, and 8 per cent more respondents reported falling rather than rising sales.
Many of the survey respondents blamed the election for the slower market, with buyers and sellers waiting to see the result before they proceed.
Will Ravenhill, a director at Readings estate agents in Leicester, reported a “slowdown in activity since the election was called”, while Edward Russell, a partner at Jackson-Stops estate agents in Newmarket, Suffolk, blamed the election for a “moribund market”.
A persistent lack of supply also worsened last month — 25 per cent more respondents reported a decline in new listings than reported an increase. This was the worst result for this part of the survey since July 2016, immediately after the UK voted to leave the EU.
Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at Rics, said the shrinking number of properties was a cause for concern — new instructions to agents fell for the 15th successive month.
“It is hard to see this as anything other than a major obstacle to the efficient functioning of the housing market,” he said.
Optimism among Rics members about house price growth was also its lowest for 10 months.
Recent surveys from mortgage lenders have pointed to slowing house price growth. According to Halifax, UK house prices fell 0.2 per cent in the three months to May. They also showed a quarterly decline in April.
Nationwide reported that prices rose at their slowest annual rate for nearly four years in May.
London estate agents were more gloomy about prices, according to Rics, with 45 per cent more expecting prices to fall in the next three months than expected rises.
Many estate agents also blame tax changes for putting off buyers: stamp duty land tax is now higher for more expensive properties and there is a 3 per cent surcharge for second and additional homes.
However, a pre-election lull could be followed by a busy period, thinks Brendon Thomas of London’s Oakland Surveyors, who speculated that “a spike in activity” could be on the way.
But Chris Charlton, head of residential at Savills estate agents in Nottingham, was more downbeat: “We can only look forward to a post-election improvement, but don’t hold your breath.”