Letting instructions have fallen for first time in a decade, says RICS

The buy-to-let housing market may be heading into a downturn, according to RICS figures.

Its residential lettings survey showed a fall in the number of instructions received by surveyors from landlords in the last quarter of 2007 – the first such fall since 1998.

The number of chartered surveyors reporting a fall rather than a rise in landlord instructions was 1% higher than in the previous quarter.

The RICS blamed the downturn on a more cautious approach to buy-to-let mortgages adopted by lenders recently as a result of the credit crunch.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders has said that the number of buy-to-let loans went up by nearly a quarter in 2007 as a whole and that lending had picked up in the second half of the year.

However, the RICS said its figures reflect a change in the very last part of the year.

The buy-to-let market is still well supported by demand from tenants, although this is now growing more slowly, according to the survey.