Brexit caution behind fall in new home seekers says RICS report

Brexit and the uncertain economic outlook lay behind a fall in in numbers of people looking for a new home in November, according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICS) latest statistics.

The number of new enquiries fell by 21% last month, down from 15% recorded in October. The net balance of newly-agreed sales also fell, from -10% to -15% in the survey where RICS members answer 19 questions.

And for the fifth month in a row, the amount of new properties being listed for sale fell with a figure of -24% the steepest fall in the survey since the summer of 2016. The price balance was at -11%, compared to -10% in October.

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS Chief Economist said: “It is evident from the feedback to the latest RICS survey that the ongoing uncertainties surrounding how the Brexit process plays out is taking its toll on the housing market. Indeed, I can’t recall a previous survey when a single issue has been highlighted by quite so many contributors.”

The survey was carried out before this week’s latest instalment of Brexit-related turmoil, which has seen Prime Minister Theresa May call off a vote in Parliament on her proposed Brexit deal and win a vote of confidence in her from Conservative Party MPs.

‘All bets are off’ – industry reaction to Brexit uncertainty

But it is hard to see much change in the sentiment behind some of the comments in the RICS publication. One Wilmslow-based agent says, “Everybody is holding their breaths. If we have a soft landing, next year will be reasonable. If not, all bets are off.”

Another, in the West Midlands, sums up the cautious scene at the moment by stating,

“Brexit still casting a massive shadow on the market; until aspirational purchasers know the impact of the changes, they will watch from the sidelines.”

And another’s feelings were summed up in the single word posted as their response – “Brexit”.

But as with previous RICS surveys, regional variations apply and the November figures show modest price rises in the North West, West Midlands, Yorkshire & Humber, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

RICS figures November 2018

Hew Edgar, RICS Head of Policy, called for politicians to see the bigger picture, “It appears that those looking to buy and sell homes across the price spectrum, as well as those looking to invest in the UK’s residential sector, are putting off decisions until there is more certainty.

“Parliamentarians need to work together to make sure politics, the future deal and our relationship with the EU works for the built environment.”

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