Property transactions ‘remain surprisingly robust’

The latest HMRC property transactions data shows that the provisional non-seasonally adjusted estimate of the number of UK residential transactions in January 2023 is 77,390, 7% lower than January 2022 and 27% below December 2022.

The data also reveals that the provisional seasonally adjusted estimate of the number of UK residential transactions in January 2023 is 96,650, 11% lower than January 2022 and down 3% on December 2022.

When compared to pre-pandemic, in January 2020, 97,310 residential transactions were registered, suggesting that current completion rates are similar to this.

Industry reactions:

Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, commented: “While 7% below the same month last year, today’s housing transaction numbers from the HMRC remain surprisingly robust. The turmoil we saw in the mortgage markets in the last three months of 2022 are yet to fully feed through into sales completions.

“Nonetheless given what has happened to mortgage approvals, the numbers still point to a market where equity rich and cash buyers have the upper hand, while first time buyers and mortgaged buy to let investors bear the brunt of higher mortgage costs.”

Matthew Thompson, head of sales at Chestertons, said: “In January, our branches noticed a 25% increase in viewings compared to the same month last year. Whilst buyer demand remained strong, the number of market appraisals has been comparably low as some sellers continued to observe how the market is developing in the first quarter of this year. With fewer properties coming onto the market at the moment, there is a degree of ‘buyer frustration’ starting to build; especially amongst those who are keen to move as soon as possible.”

Iain McKenzie, CEO of The Guild of Property Professionals, commented: “A dip in transactions is to be expected at this time of the year, following a rush to complete in time for Christmas and avoid the paperwork in January.

“A slowdown in sales isn’t necessarily bad news for agents, as they have time to pause and replenish the stock they have available to buyers.

“It is possible that buyers are adopting a wait-and-see approach to the market with the expectation that house prices will see substantial falls, however the market continues to defy expectation with house prices holding steady for the time being.

“Prospective buyers being hit hard by the cost-of-living crisis may be deciding to sit on their deposit a while longer. As better mortgage deals return to the market and inflation slowly falls to manageable levels again, we should see demand pick up again.”

Jason Tebb, CEO of OnTheMarket, said: “As expected, transaction levels dipped in January compared with December, and were also down on January 2022, as the housing market continues to rebalance.

“That said, buyer and seller confidence seems to be holding up remarkably well, which may be partly down to the clear direction that the government and Bank of England have set out in terms of dealing with inflation and its impact on interest rates. The upheaval of September and October has given way to increased calmness, with inflation looking as though it may have peaked. Interest rates may have a little higher to go but the markets are also suggesting they may be close to their peak, if not there already.

“As the market adjusts to something closer to what it looked like pre-pandemic, all this underlines the importance of sellers pricing their homes correctly. People need to move for different reasons, and that isn’t going to change even if conditions are tougher, but properties must be priced correctly now more than ever.”

Andy Sommerville, director at Search Acumen, commented: “As we look at the first property transaction figures of 2023, we see a continuation in the trends seen towards the end of last year, as volumes decline against the great heights witnessed in the early months of 2021 and 2022 – a time when the industry raced to catch up with unprecedented demand. Comparatively, times today feel exceptionally tough for the market, reflected in declining consumer confidence as the cost-of-living crisis beds in via ever increasing bills and high borrowing rates.

“A green shoot of hope is the better-than-expected macro-economic figures, allowing the UK to avoid a recession, albeit within in hairs breath. This has given banks more confidence to lend, and homeowners the motivation to keep going with their move. With the Budget approaching and a new housing minister in place, looking ahead we hope that the property industry may receive the stability it has been craving for some time.

“Commercial property transactions are seemingly outpacing residential at present, however we’ve seen, for example, office spaces rapidly decrease in value over the last few months which might not be reflected in data until the Spring. The great unknown here is the effect of what more Land Registry strikes will have on transaction volumes in future datasets, putting added strain on this public service which may cause details in registrations. What this means for conveyancers, and every stakeholder within an ongoing transaction, is that they need to stay one step ahead.

“As the number of transactions mellow, conveyancing firms will, more than ever, need to maintain their competitive advantage, where no firm can afford to lose momentum. With increasingly complex transactions, longer chains, and greater risks, how each firm fares in the months ahead will be defined by how streamlined their transaction process can be and their continued investment in tech innovation as a tool for efficiency and cost saving in challenging times. We already have technology to digitise property data and automate the transaction process through AI, taking tasks that took weeks, and delivering them in seconds. As we continue to see the trends of 2022 ushered into a new year, now more than ever the property sector needs to embrace technology to future-proof businesses, keep markets moving, and support everyday buyers and sellers facing significant financial pressures.”



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  1. olddognewtricks58

    I would like to see what the completion transaction levels will be look in the next 6 months. Going by what we are seeing as a business they will be significantly behind 2019, in which everyone seems to be drawing comparisons. I am the most positive leader, but given what I am seeing now – it ain’t going to be a pretty year in the slightest. For context we run a 9 branch network business so able to see this across a greater scale. Training and development of your teams is paramount along with surrounding the teams with great leadership. Hold tight – February seems to be showing the slowdown. I have a feeling this could be a very very tough year to 18 months which will see casualties.January masked the reality. Thoughts?

    1. Ric

      Agreed… ticking over, but WELL below a level which is comfortable. We are a small 2 office outfit, but a pretty interesting market over the 2.

      We have one office with a more structured property ladder, tighter prices between the terrace homes, semi’s, detached and bungalows…. and that office is ticking over (could be busier, but could be worse), the market flows quite well there, also helped by the schools, yet it is the “cheaper of the 2 offices”.

      My area where I base (literally 3 miles from my other office), is a really stretched ladder… Our first and second time sellers, need to go from between £350,000 & £550,000 (sale price) to buying at £650,000 to £850,000 and then need to have £100k on top for a refit, as most of that stock has been lived in for 30 years or more. Hence the area is now collecting towards top end stock, as it seems the desire to get to the top of the property ladder has gone. (Rather stay, enjoy holidays and eating out, over upsizing for one extra room).

      I guess everyone will have different markets, and it’s tough to predict anything, but I agree 2023 and probably 2024 will be a tough ride…

    2. bren_gun

      There are clearly regional differences, our two branch network was a train crash in January but we’re now flat out with activity (valuations, instructions and sales agreed) so I’m now significantly more upbeat than I was at the end of 22/start of 23.

  2. jan-byers

    New homes developer

    We are very busy

  3. olddognewtricks58

    That’s good ..Well done, Jan….curious to get an understanding and a deeper context on this though as many new homes developers letting staff go via redundancy.


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