This uptick broke the trend of declines seen in previous months, such as the four per cent monthly decline in February and a three per cent dip between December and January.
HMRC put these falls down to higher mortgage and interest rates at the time.
Danny Belton, head of lender relationships at Legal and General Mortgage Club, said it was “positive to see an uptick in transactions from February to March kickstarting a strong spring selling season”.
Annually, the level of transactions was 19 per cent lower than March last year.
Compared to pre-pandemic levels, this was 8.2 per cent down on the 97,550 seasonally adjusted transactions in March 2019.
On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, there were 94,870 transactions in March, which was 26 per cent higher than February and 14 per cent down on the same month last year.
HMRC also pointed out that transactions for the year to date were “significantly lower” than last year but noted that activity at the time was boosted by pent-up demand and the stamp duty holiday.
Andy Sommerville, director at Search Acumen, said: “Broadly, a steadying of transaction volumes will likely be a continuing theme for the next few months, with a pale imitation of the usual spring bounce creating a drag on normally higher volumes for this time of year, in which transactions have not been this low since October 2021.”
A return in activity?
Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, said the numbers confirmed what was being seen on the ground for the last few months, that “buyers and sellers are emerging from a period of uncertainty and responding to increased supply of properties, as well as more stable interest rates”.
He added: “As a result, property market activity is proving to be much more resilient than we had feared, certainly at the end of last year.”
Emma Cox, MD of real estate at Shawbrook, echoed this and said sales volumes had still not caught up with returning demand as March’s figures were still subdued.
She said: “It’s not as gloomy as it appears, though. Given how long it can take to complete a purchase, it’s likely a lag from Christmas when the market is typically quiet anyway, compounded by soaring inflation and mortgage rates at that time.
“We’ve seen increased demand from professional property investors, who are making the most of opportunities in the market, and I’m confident that as spring turns into summer, we’ll see a positive trend emerge.”