The slowdown in sales activity comes after months of apparent momentum, prompting RICS to question if this is a temporary setback or the onset of a new trend.
It said 1% more chartered surveyors saw a fall rather than a rise in sales in December. Figures for predicted sales over the next three months have also seen what RICS called a “noticeable slowdown”. Only 4% more respondents anticipate an increase – down from 18%.
While new buyer enquiries continued to rise in December, RICS said the increase was marginal and stymied by a lack of supply. There has been no pick up in new instructions at a national level for 10 months.
Parts of the UK are seeing a sales rise – Wales, the South West and the North East all reported an increase. Also 32% more contributors expect sales to rise rather than fall in the year ahead, a stronger result than in November, when the figure was 31%.
Scotland and Ireland returned the strongest 12-month projections, though all areas of the UK were in positive territory.
Meanwhile, the headline price balance shows that 24% more chartered surveyors saw a rise rather than fall in prices in December, from +29% in November.
“Although this suggests prices are still rising firmly, the latest figure does end a run of four successive months of higher house price balances,” RICS warned.
Central London is the only area where in which prices are falling, with the price indicator having remained in negative territory for 10 consecutive months.
The North West reported the strongest price growth, with 55% more respondents noting an increase rather than a decline in December.
Over the next 12 months, 49% suggest prices will increase, with all parts of the UK expected to benefit, although Central London expectations are subdued.
In the lettings market, non seasonally-adjusted tenant demand increased marginally across the UK as a whole while new landlord instructions were more or less flat. This trend is expected to continue with respondents projecting rental growth to average close to 5%, per annum, over the next five years.
RICS chief economist Simon Rubenstein said the results showed “a familiar story relating to supply continues to drive both the sales and lettings markets, impacting on activity, prices and rents”.
He added: “The eagerly awaited housing white paper should help to create a more positive framework for new build delivery but with the best will in the world, it is going to take time before the resulting uplift in the development pipeline begins to impact on the opportunities for either homebuyers or tenants.
“Meanwhile, the latest RICS survey provides further evidence that both price and rent pressures are continuing to spread from the more highly valued to more modestly valued parts of the market for good or ill.”