An optimistic Rightmove said today that it is hoping that the Brexit extension which could see the constitutional crisis drag on until October 31 will release some of the pent-up demand in the market.
Its upbeat message is based on record traffic to the site, which it says shows there are buyers in the market.
However, the search engine Home says that new listings are down 8% this month compared with a year ago, with both buyer and seller activity “slowing considerably”. It sees little prospect of improvement in the foreseeable future, and expects the market to stagnate.
Miles Shipside, director of Rightmove, sounded a positive note, saying: “No doubt there are still a lot of twists and turns to come, but this extension could give hesitating home movers encouragement that there is now a window of relative certainty in uncertain times.
“We are not anticipating an activity surge, but maybe a wave of relief that releases some pent-up demand to take advantage of static property prices and cheap fixed-rate mortgages.
“This demand is clearly there, as March was Rightmove’s busiest-ever month with over 145m visits to the site.”
Rightmove says asking price growth this month hit its highest level for over a year, but this was boosted by slightly more larger properties coming to market.
Rightmove data shows the price of new listings was up 1.1% between March and April to £305,449.
This is the largest rise for this time of year since 2016, although new asking prices are down 0.1% annually.
The portal revealed that the number of listings has fallen nationally by 1.2%, although listings of larger properties – typically three or four-bedroom homes – were up 0.7%.
A similar pattern was spotted with transactions: sales agreed were down 1.6% annually but larger homes fell just 0.4%.
The portal’s analysis shows time on the market fell from 71 to 67 days between February and March but is still longer than the 56 days registered last year.
Stock is also up at 48 properties on average per agent in March, compared with 46 in February and 45 a year ago.
Shipside added: “Some sectors of the market and some parts of the country have strong buyer demand and a lack of suitable supply.
“However, on average, properties are still coming to the market at slightly lower prices than a year ago. It’s one of the most price-sensitive markets that we’ve seen for years, with buyers understandably looking for value or for homes with extra quality and appeal that suit their needs.”
Rightmove’s positivity is in contradiction to data from property search engine Home.co.uk.
Home’s analysis, based on portal listings and agency websites, found that overall supply of property for sale entering the UK market is down 8% this month compared with a year ago, while the total stock for sale has increased by 3.7%.
Home said asking prices – it quotes overall asking prices, not just new ones – are down 0.3% annually to £305,922.
Typical time on the market for England and Wales is currently 93 days, 15 days longer than in April last year, making it the slowest April since 2014, Home said.
Doug Shephard, director of Home, said: “Cautious behaviour on the part of both buyers and vendors has slowed the market considerably.
“As a result, we expect transaction rates to drop and the market to stagnate. Marketing times will likely increase and certainly continue to be much higher than last year.
“However, we do not expect this to affect pricing in the short term due to the reduction in supply.
“With the no-deal Brexit scenario seemingly less likely following an exceptionally close parliamentary vote, the negotiations could go on for some time.
“The short-term outlook for the UK therefore resembles a slow-motion property market with fewer participants.
“Not good for agents and not good for the home-moving public who may suffer costly and stressful delays.”
* Meanwhile, surveyors are predicting a 4% annual boost in mortgage approvals for March to 66,174. The proportion of loans given to small deposit borrowers – typically first-time buyers – fell slightly compared to February from 26.3% to 26%, according to analysis by e.surv