Is the housing market really storming ahead as some say?
Agents have almost unanimously been reporting a big surge in business since the reopening of the housing market, but new figures from HM Revenue & Customs suggest there is still some way to go before normal volumes are seen.
A total of 68,670 residential properties were sold in June according to HMRC data.
While this was predictably a huge 50 per cent up on May, it was still 31.5 per cent down on the same month a year ago.
The figures obviously pre-date the stamp duty holiday and other purchase tax changes in different parts of the UK, introduced only this month.
“Transactions, not more volatile house prices, are always a better indicator of market strength. These figures show activity is moving in the right direction but will clearly take time to be reflected in the figures as we emerge from lockdown and associated restrictions” notes former RICS residential chairman Jeremy Leaf, who also runs his own London estate agency.
“Nevertheless, we have noticed at street level that many buyers and sellers are bringing forward moving decisions to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday and continuing lower interest rates. There is still concern that improved conditions will be relatively short-lived as economic news deteriorates and furlough support falls away” he adds.
The chief analyst at online agency Yopa, Mike Scott, says it’s possible that these HMRC figures may be worse than reality.
“Note that these are provisional figures. Transaction data may be being processed more slowly than usual due to the effects of the pandemic, which means that there may still be more June sales to be reported and the true year-on-year fall may not be as bad as it is in this report” he suggests.
And Tomer Aboody, director of property lender MT Finance, says: “We are still below last year’s numbers, which in turn were down on the previous year, but confidence is creeping back up.
“If the government increases capital gains tax on principal home sales, it will push us back again so any progress made by the stamp duty reduction will be swiftly lost. We need more stimulus via reduced stamp duty to the upper end of the market and hope for this in the autumn Budget.”