Residential property sales hit a four-month low last month, HMRC data suggests.
The taxman’s latest Property Transactions report for September showed that sales volumes fell 18.2% on a monthly basis and 11.9% annually to 95,440 – the lowest amount recorded since May.
The biggest drop was in Wales, where sales were down 28.3% on a monthly basis and fell 21.8% annually to 3,910, while activity in Northern Ireland was down 25.3% on a monthly basis and fell 16.2% annually to 2,120.
Sales volumes in England fell 19.2% between August and September and declined 11.3% annually to 80,750.
Scotland was the only region of the UK to buck the trend, with sales up 2.2% on a monthly basis and 11.3% annually to 8,660.
The seasonally adjusted estimate of the number of residential property transactions decreased by 0.5% between August and September, and fell 2.7% annually to 98,400.
Commenting on the figures, Neil Knight, business development director of Spicerhaart Part Exchange & Assisted Move, said: “The housing market is starting to plateau.
“Last week, ONS figures revealed that house prices rose at their lowest annual rate in five years.
“And so far, we haven’t seen the usual autumn pick-up in sales volumes, possibly because many potential buyers are put off making any big decisions about buying or selling due to the current political and economic uncertainties.
“But having said this, we know there is still an appetite out there for people to move, and the Spicerhaart group of estate agents has seen an increase in the number of buyers looking for property.
“This should manifest itself down the line as home owners see that there are buyers and realise that selling their homes may not be as difficult as they might fear.
“It’s first and second steppers that are struggling the most, which is why we are working with lots of developers to offer part-exchange and assisted move options, which eliminate chains and helps get things moving.”
The slump in sales comes as agents report the number of properties available to buy increased by 15% September – rising from 40 in August to 46 per branch on average.
The figure – from NAEA Propertymark – is the highest number recorded since March 2016 when an average of 54 properties were available, and the highest for the month of September since 2014.
Demand was up on a monthly basis from 320 house hunters registered per branch to 338 in September, but this was down 14% from 394 in the same month last year.
There was some good news for first-time buyers, with their share of sales increasing by two percentage points last month to 22% after hitting a three-year low in August.
However, the number of sales agreed per branch remained the same in September, with an average of nine recorded per branch.
Mark Hayward, chief executive of NAEA Propertymark, said: “Buyers and sellers always tend to flood the market in September with the hope of completing their transactions before the festive period kicks off.
“Therefore, the summer is usually a good time for first-time buyers to enter negotiations and try to secure a property. However, this summer’s heatwave led to an unusually busy August as house buyers and sellers opted to stay at home rather than heading abroad for their summer holidays.
“We hope that during next week’s Budget the Chancellor announces further measures to improve market conditions for first-time buyers.
“Ultimately, the only thing which will make the housing ladder more accessible is reduced competition, which comes down to supply.”