The March 2021 RICS UK Residential Survey results show sales market activity picking up sharply over the month, with indicators on enquiries, sales and new instructions all improving noticeably compared to last time out. Survey participants highlight the extension of the Stamp Duty holiday as a significant driving force behind this renewed momentum, while a gradual loosening in lockdown restrictions is also said to be contributing to the rise in activity.
At the national level, a net balance of +42% of respondents cited an increase in new buyer enquiries during March. This is up from a reading of zero previously and marks the strongest return since September last year. Alongside this, new instructions coming onto the market also improved, albeit the pace of growth (in net balance terms) was not enough to match the pick-up in demand reported. Indeed, a common theme running through the comments left by contributors is that demand is running ahead of supply, and more new instructions will be needed to balance the market going forward. On that front, a net balance of +29% of respondents noted that appraisals were up on the same period last year (a turnaround on a reading of -19% in February), suggesting more new instructions should be in the pipeline over the next few months.
Agreed sales rose firmly during March, evidenced by a net balance of +50% of contributors reporting an increase. This marks a sharp acceleration compared to last month (net balance +7%) and is in fact the strongest reading since August last year. Looking ahead, near term sales expectations rose noticeably to post a net balance of +35%, up from a figure of +9% in February. What’s more, the near-term sales outlook is now the most upbeat since January 2020, with sales expectations positive across all parts of the UK. That said, this rise in sales looks set to be concentrated over the next few months, with the twelve-month expectations series consistent with more modest growth in sales further ahead.
With regards to house prices, a net balance of +59% of respondents cited an increase at the national level over the latest survey period. This indicator has now risen slightly in each of the last two months, although the latest reading is still slightly below the recent high of +66% posted back in October last year. In terms of the regional breakdown, prices are reportedly rising across all regions/countries of the UK, with the strongest momentum signalled by respondents in the North West, Yorkshire & the Humber, as well as Northern Ireland.
Given the recent excess of demand over supply, prices are expected to continue on a firmly upward trajectory over the coming three months. At the headline level, a net balance of +42% of survey participants expect prices to rise further in the near term, up from a reading of +16% previously. At the twelve-month horizon, a net balance of +60% of contributors nationally anticipate higher prices in a year’s time (an increase on +46% returned last month). Twelve-month price expectations are now pointing to significant growth across all parts of the UK, led by particularly elevated readings in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.