The overall number of registered house hunters fell by 15 per cent in February to 252 per estate agent branch – the lowest level for more than half-a-decade and 18 per cent lower than the same period a year ago.
But sales to first-time buyers (FTBs) hit a seven-month high in February and accounted for 30 per cent of all sales, a four per cent increase on January. The last time FTBs were responsible for this rate of sales was July 2018.
The overall fall in house hunters is part of a year-on-year trend which has seen demand for housing drop by 46 per cent from 2016 when there were 463 house hunters per branch.
Figures for February 2019 were the lowest since July 2013 when an average of 250 prospective buyers were recorded per branch.
The supply of available housing fell from an average of 36 properties per branch in January to 34 in February. A year ago the number stood at 35.
There was an increase in sales agreed in January, and they remained high in February, with seven recorded per branch.
Caution connected to Brexit
Mark Hayward (pictured), CEO of NAEA Propertymark, connected buyers’ caution to the uncertainty around Brexit, saying: “As we move into spring, we would usually expect to see an increase in activity, but house hunters are evidently delaying their plans until the impact of Brexit is clearer.
“Over the last seven months, however, we’ve seen periods where FTBs have taken advantage of reduced competition and driven their transactions forward, and this really picked up in February.”