RICS data shows boost in advance of stamp duty changes

The looming end of the stamp duty exemption for first time buyers is helping to prop up the housing market, according to the latest monthly data from RICS.

The data showed that the majority of surveyors saw prices fall rather than rise in January, with a balance of -16% recording price increases, the same figure as in December. Price rises remained strong in London, with the North-east the only other region to record a price rise.

However, the RICS said the number of sales were rising and confidence was growing. The number of sales per surveyor has risen by 1.8% in the last three months, while the average number of homes on surveyors books has dipped by 5.5%, as buyers try to push sales through before the stamp duty changes due at the end of March.

The expectation of increased sales in the next three months grew sharply, with a balance of 24% more surveyors seeing sales growth than decline, compared with a balance of just 1% in December. This is the highest figure since May 2010.

This is despite the fact that the majority of surveyors still expect prices to fall marginally in the next few months, but, at a -9% balance, the expectation of falls is at its smallest figure since June 2010.

Chancellor George Osborne is due to end the temporary doubling of the exemption on stamp duty for first-time buyers to purchases up to £250,000 in March.

Michael Newey, RICS housing spokesperson, said: “With first time buyers no longer exempt from stamp duty as of the end of March, it seems that some are looking to purchase homes before the deadline and, as a result, surveyors are relatively optimistic for the coming months.

“However, many problems with the market still exist and the lack of affordable mortgage finance is still preventing many from getting onto the property ladder.”