The number of homes changing hands fell to an eight-year low during December as the severe winter weather exacerbated an already subdued housing market, research has indicated.
A combination of the bad weather and the approach of Christmas led to the average estate agent branch selling just four properties during the month, the lowest level since January 2003 and nearly half the seven that were sold in November, according to the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA).
Mike Jones, president of the NAEA, said: “December is always a slow month for agents, but there is little doubt that these figures are worse than usual.”
He continued: “However it is important not to read too much into it. This lack of sales can be explained by freak weather conditions, rather than any underlying problem with the market.
“We would hope to see a bounce-back in the next few months. Indeed, the New Year has begun very strongly and agents have reported a very busy couple of weeks that we are hopeful will continue.”
There was a sharp fall in interest from potential buyers during December, with the number of people registering with estate agents dropping to an average of 227 per branch, down from 241 in November.
But the group stressed that it was normal to see a fall off in buyer interest during December, as people put their plans on hold until after the festive season, while inquiry levels were still ahead of the 218 people who registered with estate agents during December.
Anecdotal evidence from estate agents suggested that some sellers were marketing their homes for more than estate agents were recommending, claiming they did not mind if the property was still unsold in 12 months’ time.
One estate agent in Essex said properties were typically only selling for 10% to 12% below their asking price, while offers on homes that were priced unrealistically were coming in at 28% below the original price.
On a brighter note, the proportion of properties bought by first-time buyers jumped from just 19% in November to 25% in December, despite the large deposits lenders are continuing to demand.