House prices rose across the UK for the first time in one and a half years last month as optimism returned among buyers and sellers, according to surveyors and estate agents.
In further evidence that the housing market is picking up, inquiries from would-be buyers, agreed sales and the number of properties coming on to the market all rose in January, according to the latest monthly snapshot from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics).
A net balance of 17% of surveyors and estate agents, which measures the difference between those reporting increases and those seeing decreases, reported higher house prices in January, the first time this measure has been positive since July 2018. In December, the reading was -2%.
Prices rose in London and the south-east, where they had been falling for much of the past few years, while Northern Ireland and Scotland showed the strongest price growth in the country.
Other surveys have also suggested a “Boris bounce” in the housing market since the general election in mid-December, although much will depend on how the Brexit process unfolds.
The Nationwide building society, which reported house price growth at a 14-month high in January, forecasts a flat outturn for 2020 as a whole.
James McKillop, a partner at Knight Frank estate agency, said: “We’re seeing a bit of a champagne-cork reaction to Brexit and the election. What we cannot yet tell is how sustained the positive sentiment will be.”
Rics said agreed sales rose for a second month, led by the West Midlands,Northern Ireland and Wales. In all regions sales and prices were expected to rise over the next 12 months.
New inquiries from buyers also increased, with a net balance of 23% respondents reporting higher demand during January, up from 19% in December.
The flow of new instructions coming into the market rose, with the net balance rising to 19% from 11%. However, because there has been a long period of falling supply, the average number of properties on estate agents’ books remains very low by historical standards, at 43.
Despite the optimism, the higher end of the market still faces tough conditions. Overall, 56% of surveyors and agents reported sales prices considerably below the asking price.