Estate agents and surveyors beg to differ on state of market

Estate agents and surveyors beg to differ on state of market

Buyer demand for property rose to its highest level in over three years last month, the RICS said. But the NAEA, reporting for March, said buyer interest had waned – proving that it was either a case of what a difference a month makes, or that the two organisations have completely different takes on the market.

The RICS said that various government schemes, including Funding for Lending, and Help to Buy, were responsible for the uplift its members detected in April.

The NAEA, reporting its members’ views on the March market, said that applicants had fallen back slightly from an average of 289 in February to 286.

According to the upbeat RICS, new instructions from sellers and sales agreed also rose in April – the latter also to their highest level for three years. House prices were also up.

On the rentals side, tenancy demand continued to outstrip supply, with the RICS expecting rents to carry on rising, but by less than 2% over the coming year.

RICS global residential director Peter Bolton King said it was encouraging to see government initiatives having a positive impact on the property market. “Help to Buy in combination with the Funding for Lending scheme appears to be giving the market a shot in the arm,” he said.

“Thankfully, sales are expected to pick up over the coming months, albeit from historically low levels.”

He acknowledged that Help to Buy is having an effect and attracting interest, even though the mortgage guarantee element of the scheme does not come into effect until next January.

Despite reporting a fall-off in applicants, the NAEA was determined to try not to be outdone in the feel-good stakes.

It said that house sales remained steady, at an average of eight per branch, and that the decline in applicants simply heralded the return of the serious buyer. However, it did express concerns that there was a fall in the number of first-time buyers in March – which it said was down to government initiatives not having an effect (perhaps the NAEA and RICS could have a little chat with each other on this).

Also determinedly positive were chartered surveyors Connells Survey & Valuation, despite valuations activity last month being 24% lower than in March. Connells said  it was  nevertheless 39% up on last year.

The firm said the drop in the number of residential valuations in April was purely seasonal, and was lower than the 32% drop over the same two months last year. It pointed to the annual rise as grounds for positivity.
Connells also said there were 40% more valuations on behalf of first-time buyers than a year ago (question: should they tell the NAEA?). House purchase valuations on behalf of those moving house were 34% greater than a year ago.
However, it was remortgaging activity that grew the most on an annual basis. The number of remortgaging valuations is now 55% higher than a year ago (despite a fall of 27% compared to March). In a similar vein, buy-to-let valuations remain 27% above the level of April 2012.

As for first-time buyers, the Council of Mortgage Lenders does not agree with the NAEA’s view that they have fallen by the wayside. See next story.