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Britain’s housing market cooled in December as sales activity fell and estate agents were less optimistic about prospects in the coming months.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said the market “stuttered” at the end of 2016 and had gotten off to a slow start in 2017.
“It remains to be seen if this is a temporary setback,” Rics said. “The number of house sales in the UK faltered in December, and predictions for expected new sales over the next three months were also pared back.”
A net balance of 1% of surveyors reported a fall rather than a rise in sales last month, ending a run of rises since August. There was also a sharp decrease in the number of surveyors expecting sales to increase over the next three months, to a net balance of 4%, down from 18% previously.
Wales, the south-west and the north-west were the exceptions, with sales increasing last month.
Despite a dip in activity across most of the UK, house prices continued to rise, but at a slower pace. The headline balance of surveyors reporting a rise fell to 24% from 29%. “Although this suggests prices are still rising firmly, the latest figure does end a run of four successive months of higher house price balances,” Rics said.
Central London was the only area where prices fell, extending the run of falls to 10 months. The strongest price growth was in the north-west. Figures published last month by mortgage lender Nationwide showed London house prices in 2016 grew at a slower rate than the national average for the first time in eight years.
Rics said: “With regards to the outlook, near-term price expectations softened for the second consecutive report, suggesting immediate price expectations may be easing slightly given slower demand growth.”
Over 2017 as whole, surveyors expect house prices to rise, including those in central London.
Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at Rics, said: “The latest survey provides further evidence that both price and rent pressures are continuing to spread from the more highly valued to more modestly valued parts of the market for good or ill.”
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