Here’s some good news for property sellers (provided they are not also buying): the number of homes up for sale is at an all-time low, starving the market and inevitably pushing prices higher. Recent figures show that the average UK estate agency has just 47 properties for sale on its books, the lowest since records began over 35 years ago.
The number is down by around a fifth in just the last four months, whilst the number of buyers has continued to rise steadily over the same period.
Basic laws of supply and demand mean that anyone looking to buy a house will now be competing with more buyers. The resulting increase in prices has affected properties across the board, but especially family homes under £400,000, which are subject to a particular dearth of availability.
The problem is being fed by a vicious circle, as people are unable to find a property they want to buy and therefore hold off putting their own homes on the market, further decreasing supply.
This has hit not only buyers but estate agents, with no obvious short-term solution. The end of substantial tax breaks for buy-to-let landlords may prompt a bump in the number of homes on the market, though these measures will not start until 2017 and will not be fully implemented until 2020.
Research by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors has shown that instead of buying a new property, people are increasingly opting to extend their existing homes. The trend towards fixing up rather than moving on has been driven by high stamp duty, as well as the lack of affordable homes in the most popular price ranges.