Buyer interest rises on the back of low interest rates and prices but sales fail to lift

House sales continued to plummet in December, in spite of strong interest from buyers, according to the latest survey from the RICS.

The average number of completed sales per agency fell to 10.1 over the three months to December, a drop from 10.6 in the three months to November and the lowest figure since the survey began 30 years ago.

London fared particularly badly, with surveyors reporting just seven sales per agency over the last three months of 2008, while those in the South-east and South-west reported an average of nine sales in the same period.

The East Midlands was the most buoyant region, with 15 sales per surveyor.

But enquiries from new buyers rose for the second consecutive month – up to 17% from 16% in November – off the back of low interest rates and cheaper houses.

The balance of surveyors reporting house price falls also eased slightly, with 73.5% more reporting falls than rises, down from 75.8% in October.

However, the RICS warned that the housing market will remain at a standstill without action to tackle the lack of mortgage finance. It urged the government to provide guarantees for new residential mortgage-backed securities.

RICS spokesman Ian Perry said: “Buyer interest is now at levels not seen since 2006, but without mortgage finance the housing market is at a standstill and transaction levels at an all-time low.

“First-time buyers and owner-occupiers are now stuck in a market which does not fulfil their aspirations. The government must act now to ensure that order is restored to the current chaos.”