Prime London buyer demand stands at 72% above the five-year average

The housing market in prime London was once again defined by high demand and low supply in January, new figures show.

The number of new prospective buyers was 72% above the five-year average, while the volume of sales instructions was down by 12% in the first month of the year.

The return to more balanced conditions does not appear imminent, according to Kinght Frank, which supplied the data.

The estate agency predicts that international buyers are likely to arrive in greater numbers from the spring as their habits tend to be more seasonal. However, it is unlikely that normal service will resume among overseas buyers anytime soon.

In the meantime, supply is building gradually. The number of new market valuation appraisals, leading indicator of supply, was 6% above the five-year average in January. That compares to an equivalent decline of 30% in January 2021 as the UK locked down.

While the shelves are re-stocking at a relatively normal pace for the time of year, demand remain unrelenting, an imbalance that could be exacerbated by the arrival of more overseas buyers.

“Supply chain disruptions have prevented normality returning in various sectors of the economy including the property market,” said Tom Bill, head of UK residential research at Knight Frank. “A supply-demand imbalance has produced gravity-defying UK house price growth and there may be a similar bounce later this year in prime central London.

“The extent of any uptick will depend on how quickly different countries are able to suppress the effects of Covid-19 and how easy outwards and inwards travel becomes. The lifting of travel restrictions in the UK last October is only one part of this global puzzle.”

Meanwhile, the problem of low supply will take a period of time to resolve. Prospective sellers are often discouraged by a lack of purchase options, which produces a vicious circle of low listings.

Prices in prime London have so far been largely flat throughout the pandemic but are gradually increasing.

Average prices in the year to January grew by 1.5% in prime central London, the highest annual rate since August 2015. In prime outer London, average prices increased 3.5%, the largest annual growth since June 2015.

A series of moving parts, including supply, demand and the return of international buyers, will need to align, but both figures appear likely to rise this year.

 

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