The figures show that, on a seasonally adjusted basis, 101,010 residential properties were sold last month, which is only a very slight reduction of 0.3 per cent on January when 101,350 homes were sold.
Looking at the year on year comparison, again there was only a small drop with 101,710 properties purchased in February 2017.
The data from HMRC is based on completed sales transactions across the entire UK residential market, therefore provides an evidence-based view of the market and current levels of housing activity which is why its results each month are followed so keenly by those in the property industry.
The reason why today’s report will be met with enthusiasm by housing analysts is because a continuation of property sales at existing levels supports the current market forecasts of a stable housing market this year, with predicted transaction levels for 2018 similar to those seen over the last three years.
Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, said of today’s report: “Transaction volumes are a much better reflection of housing market health rather than prices, which can fluctuate wildly.
“Numbers this month have not changed a great deal but reflect what we are finding on the ground, which is steady activity but no fireworks with buyers and sellers getting on with business, albeit at more realistic price levels.
“Hopefully, the encouraging figures on inflation and wage growth will reduce the squeeze on household expenses and encourage more buyers into the market in time for the traditionally busy spring season.”
Brian Murphy, Head of Lending for Mortgage Advice Bureau also commented: “Today’s data underscores industry forecasts that the market will continue to perform at the same level this year with a relatively steady number of transactions at a topline level, although the mix of buyers is changing as we see fewer investors but the slack being picked up at entry level by First Time Buyers.”
Brian continued: “Having said that, as we continue to see a diverging regional picture with some areas seeing a significant upturn in buyer activity, this overall picture masks the fact that some towns and cities have seen higher than anticipated levels of buyer activity in the first two months of 2018.
“This ‘two-tier’ market is therefore propping up the more subdued levels of activity in London and the South East, a reversal of what we’ve seen in previous years, and potentially an indicator of what we may see over the course of the next few months.”
With the long Easter Bank Holiday weekend less than two weeks away, which is usually seen as one of the busier points of the year for house-hunters, and the economy in sound health as outlined by the Chancellor in the Spring Statement last week, it’s possible that we may see transaction levels increase as an upturn in consumer confidence translates into higher completion levels in the coming months.
However, even if a seasonal surge doesn’t occur and current volumes of transactions are maintained for the rest of 2018, many will see this as a welcome position for the UK property market.
Follow Louisa on Twitter: @louisafletcher
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