New buyer enquiries edged up to levels not seen since 2010, with 9% more surveyors reporting increases rather than decreases in demand, according to data published by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics).
Simon Rubinsohn, Rics’ chief economist, said: “Demand saw a slight boost in March as many first-time buyers looked to beat the stamp duty holiday deadline. There has been a gentle increase in activity across the market in the early part of the year but it remains to be seen is whether this can continue, given the changes in the budget and ongoing problems affecting the economy. London continues to outperform the rest of the UK in terms of prices but, interestingly, the north-west did see an increase in activity in March.”
Less positive regional variations were also evident, Rics noted, with the north of England, East Anglia and Scotland seeing buyer interest drop.
The Stamp Duty holiday ended last month after being introduced in 2010. It had allowed first-time buyers to save up to £2,500 by exempting them from 1% Stamp Duty on homes worth between £125,000 and £250,000. Ministers said the move had not helped people to get on to the property ladder as hoped.
However, prices continued to edge down in all areas of the country outside London despite March’s rise in demand and prices stayed flat for the second consecutive month.
The survey, which polls around 300 surveyors each month, follows data released last week by property analysts Hometrack, which showed house prices rose 0.2% in March and 0.5% in London.
However, research from Lloyds TSB suggested the number of property hotspots where property prices are rising fell to their lowest level since the height of the financial crisis, with just 40% out of 500 towns recording rising prices.
This was the lowest proportion of towns experiencing an annual rise in sales since 2008, when all towns recorded a fall in sales and less than half the proportion in 2010 (82%).
This is a reversal of 2010 when southern towns accounted for the majority of the country’s property sales hotspots.