Strongest spring housing market for home sellers in a decade

If you’re thinking about selling your home but have been waiting to see what will happen in the housing market, our latest insights reveal there is a record number of buyers enquiring about properties on our site this month. In fact, demand levels are 34% higher than this time last year when we were still experiencing a strong pre-lockdown market.

This surging level of demand, fuelled by people searching for more space and a change of lifestyle, is outstripping the number of homes for sale by the biggest margin at any time over the past ten years, making this the best sellers’ market of the decade – and perhaps one of the best ever Easter periods to sell.

Our resident property data expert Tim Bannister says: “Concerns of a cliff edge for the housing market at the end of March have dissipated, partly due to the tax deadline extensions in all of the UK bar Scotland. Strong buyer demand will be further boosted from April by the new Government guarantees enabling lenders to return to the widespread availability of 5% deposit mortgages.”

All of the numbers we use to track buyer activity on our site, which allow us to analyse around 95% of the UK property market, are ahead of this time last year. In February, we recorded seven million visits on average every day to Rightmove, an annual increase of 40%.

The average asking price of a property coming to market has risen by 2.7% in the past 12 months to £321,064 nationally.

Asking prices also increased for the second consecutive month, with a rise of 0.8% (+£2,484) recorded in March.

And despite fewer properties coming to market, the number of sales agreed for the first week of this month were still 12% higher than a year ago. Almost two out of three properties currently on estate agents’ books are currently sold subject to contract.

Early signs of sellers returning to market

So, with record levels of buyer demand, there isn’t as much choice as usual if you’re looking to move, but if you’re thinking of putting your home on the market, there is a lot of demand out there.

“So many sales have been agreed in recent months that we now face a serious shortage of homes available for sale. There are lots of reasons why many home – owners have hesitated to come to market during the first two months of the year, but these do now seem to be dissipating. A recovery in fresh supply gives more choice to prospective buyers, many of whom are also potential sellers, which in turn encourages more of them to come to market. Greater supply to match the high demand would ease upwards price pressure,” explains Tim Bannister, our Rightmove housing market expert.

However, there are early signs that more homeowners are deciding to market their properties to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday extension and the easing of lockdown restrictions.

New listing numbers are seeing momentum building. In the first week of March, new listings were down by just 5% when compared to this time a year ago. In February, levels had dropped by 20%.

What else do the experts say?

Tim Bannister says that the high level of buyer demand caused by the pandemic has continued to surge since the start of last year.

“Whilst it is unfortunately not the perfect time to buy for some people who have been adversely affected by the pandemic, the record buyer demand measured by Rightmove indicates that now is the right time for many.

“Record low interest rates and the new focus on what your home needs to offer after several lockdowns have led us to the greatest excess of demand over supply in the last ten years. This strong sellers’ market is good news for those who are looking to put their home on the market as the traditional Easter selling season approaches. Blossoming buyer demand coinciding with blossoming gardens should put a spring in the steps of sellers, and more of them coming to market will provide a much – needed increase in the choice of property for the many who are looking to buy .

Bannister adds: “Price rises will also be tempered by the tighter lending criteria imposed by the Bank of England upon lenders following the Mortgage Market Review in 2014. Restrictions on borrowers’ income multiples alongside stress testing of future affordability were specifically designed to guard against the destructive booms and busts of the past, limiting buyer borrowing power and preventing excessive price movements. The current annual rate of house price increase stands at a historically modest rate of 2.7 %, but we stand by our forecast for the year of 4% which we published in December.”

What are estate agents seeing?

Marc von Grundherr, Director of Benhamand Reeves in London, said : ”We’re fast approaching what is traditionally the busiest time of the year for the UK property market. With the double pronged boost to buyer demand in the form of a stamp duty extension and government guaranteed 95% mortgage products, sellers can ill – afford to sit on their hands with regard to getting their property on the market.

“While price growth has been understandably subdued in some areas such as prime central London, a lack of supply to meet the huge levels of buyer demand seen in recent months means that by and large, sellers are securing a very good price for their home. This is a trend we expect to see intensify over the coming months. At Benham and Reeves we’re finding many more sellers requesting valuations in anticipation of riding this wave. With lockdown restrictions still in place, buyers are continuing to value larger homes over location and so we’re seeing the outer suburbs of London perform extremely well right now.”

Nick Leeming, Chairman of Jackson-Stops, said: “Buyers have snapped up stock rapidly across the housing market over the last six months, eroding inventory levels across the country. At the same time, lockdown has meant homeowners have continued to reassess what they want from their properties and this, coupled with the stamp duty holiday, has created a swell in demand. Add to this a renewed appetite for a British bolt hole and this has formed one of the busiest markets we’ve seen for years.

“Across all our branches, the rate that new buyers are coming to the market is much faster than the rate in which new homes are being listed for sale, with 17 buyers chasing every new home that we listed last month.

“However , we are starting to see signs of rebalancing as more vendors have been in contact over the past week following the Chancellor’s stamp duty holiday extension. For those considering a sale in the next 12 months, now is certainly the time to act to ensure you can take advantage of current favourable market conditions. Vendors who have had their properties accurately valued and have been realistic on pricing should expect attractive offers and a prompt exchange.”

To read our March House Price Index in full, click here

READ MORE: How sellers can make the most of the stamp duty extension

The header image for this article comes courtesy of Cubitt & West


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