Estate agents have lowest stock of homes for 40 years

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The UK housing market is in a state of lethargy, according to property surveyors, with estate agents reporting the lowest stock of properties for nearly 40 years.

In another gloomy survey, members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said the market might continue “flatlining” for a while.

New instructions in June fell for the 16th month in a row.

Most surveyors also saw further falls in the number of properties being sold.

The average number of homes on the books of estate agents fell to 42.5 – the lowest number since the survey started in January 1978.

“Political uncertainty” was given by 44% of surveyors as the main reason for the pessimism – nearly double the number who blamed Brexit.

Simon Rubinsohn, Rics’ chief economist, said that uncertainty seemed to be “exerting itself on transaction levels, which are flat-lining, and may continue to do so for a while, particularly given the ongoing challenge presented by the low level of stock on the market”.

New price divide

Last week, the Halifax, Britain’s largest lender, reported that prices fell by 1% in June, with annual growth slipping to 2.6%.

The Rics survey suggests that property values actually rose during the month.

However, that hides an increasing regional divide in price growth.

Five years ago, prices in the South of the country were roaring ahead of prices in the North, but now there has been a reversal.

Prices in London are falling, while they are flat in East Anglia and the South East, according to the Rics survey.

By contrast, property values in the North West, Wales, Northern Ireland and the West Midlands are rising significantly.

“The latest results demonstrate the danger, however tempting, of talking about a single housing market across the country,” said Mr Rubinsohn.

“Rics indicators, particularly regarding the price trend, are pointing towards an increasingly divergent picture.”

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