Map of the UK and Ireland under a magnifying glass

Regions buck trends as survey shows market staying cautious

The overall national property outlook is subdued and cautious, although there are variations in mood around the UK according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICS) latest survey.

The responses from the RICS members showed the overall price balance to be at -10%, down from -2% a month earlier, the weakest figure returned since September 2012. But prices over the last three months around the country show marked variations, with Scotland and Northern Ireland leading the way with price rises while the survey showed falls in London, the south-east and others.

The RICS survey is one based on sentiment, with members asked to answer 19 questions.

They range from ‘How have average prices changed over the last 3 months? (down/ same/ up)’ to ‘What is your sense of current price levels being achieved in your area (Very Expensive, Expensive, Fair value, Cheap, Very Cheap)’.  The Halifax’s House Price Index, by contrast, measures precise figures, with the most recent edition referencing the sentiment among RICS members that they are holding back on activity at the moment.

RICS survey graphic

Brexit casts its shadow

Uncertainties over Brexit and the general economic outlook could lie behind three-month price expectations being noticeably down in London and the south-east especially. One London-based surveyor pleads that, “a deal on Brexit is required to give some certainty, which will then encourage investors and purchasers”.

Indeed, RICS Chief Economist Simon Rubinsohn calls Brexit “a key drag on sentiment” in the survey. But the same part of the survey also shows positive returns markedly positive feelings from RICS members in Northern Ireland, Scotland and the north-west.

The amount of people putting property on the market was mostly down across the UK, with the survey only returning positive figures for new vendor instructions in the north-east and Northern Ireland.

Positive feelings in some regions

With the survey showing the sales market to be generally cautious, it showed some optimism in rentals with rent expectations for the next three months up in all regions bar London and the south-east. National tenant demand was slightly up, but national new landlord instructions fell for the tenth month in a row.

The supply of housing remains an issue, with one RICS member in Yorkshire declaring they have seen “(a) busy Autumn market with lack of stock driving prices”.

Mr Rubinsohn added, “Although the tone of much of the newsflow surrounding the housing market remains downbeat, this continues to disproportionately reflect developments in the south and east of England with the picture remaining rather more resilient in many other parts of the country.”

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