manchester buildings north west

North west leads the way as UK housing market outlook improves

The north west of England is among the top performers in terms of its property sales in recent months, spurred on by improving mortgage rates for borrowers.

The near-term sales outlook for the UK property sector has improved, as market sentiment becomes more positive among buyers, sellers and agents. New buyer enquiries are strengthening, according to the latest RICS residential market survey, compared with what we have seen over the past few months.

As always, delving deeper into the variations between different parts of the country can give a clearer picture into how each unique section of the housing market is adapting to recent conditions. This is where the north west, alongside Northern Ireland, continues to stand out.

The region, which encompasses the major cities of Manchester and Liverpool, has been a particularly popular place in which to invest in property in recent years, both by UK-based and overseas investors. These cities, alongside the nearby commuter towns, have been resilient in terms of house price falls, with strong rental markets.

North west tops the market charts

Over the past three months, the RICS sales market charts show that agents across all regions believe house prices have fallen, apart from in Northern Ireland. However, in England, agents in the north west returned the most positive picture overall, with the smallest house price dip compared with elsewhere.

Meanwhile, when it comes to new buyer enquiries, after Northern Ireland the north west was the only UK region to post a positive figure for the past month. This highlights the fact that people remain interested in both living and investing in the region, despite wider economic difficulties.

Similarly, the north west had the highest number of agents reporting an increase in new vendor instructions over the past month, followed by Northern Ireland and Wales which were the only two other regions to post an increase in this metric.

The region also saw a positive trend in newly agreed sales for the past month, second only to Northern Ireland, while East Anglia was the only other region with a positive measurement here.

A more positive outlook

Agents were asked how they expected sales numbers to perform in the three months ahead, and the north west saw the most optimistic result in this respect. Other regions to score in positive territory for this question were Northern Ireland, East Anglia, Wales, the north and the East Midlands.

Meanwhile, while more agents predicted house price falls in the north west for the next three months than house price rises, it was at a lower level than the rest of the UK’s regions barring Northern Ireland.

From a buyer’s point of view, whether investing in a property or purchasing a home, this part of the country still contains some of the most affordable places to live. Even the major city of Manchester has significantly lower property prices than many parts of the south, making it a hugely popular place to live and invest in.

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist, said: “The latest RICS Residential Market Survey provides further evidence that sentiment is a little less negative than previously was the case with, critically, the new buyers enquiries indicator finally beginning to stabilise.

“This is being aided by increased confidence that the interest rate cycle has peaked which is reflected in somewhat more competitive mortgage products coming to the market.

“However, with the cost of money likely to remain elevated for some time to come and the economic outlook still downbeat, it is not surprising that the overall tone to the anecdotal remarks from survey respondents is still quite cautious.”

The latest research from Moneyfactscompare shows that many lenders have continued to drop the rates on their fixed rate products, in both the homeowner space and for buy-to-let mortgages. The expectation is that the Bank of England will reduce the base rate once more in 2024, and mortgage rates will continue to fall.

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