A decade high in the number of house hunters during December was fuelled by new rules on stamp duty, estate agents reported.
The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) found its members typically had 360 prospective home buyers registered with them per branch last month, marking the highest figure recorded for the 12th month of the year since 2004.
It said that the unusually high figure for December suggests that the overhaul of stamp duty announced by the Government at the start of December had encouraged more would-be buyers in what is normally a quieter period for the housing market.
Mark Hayward, managing director of the NAEA, said: “This is just the start of the changes to the market - we would hope to see the new reforms eventually balance the see-saw of supply and demand.”
The reforms to stamp duty mean that it now works in a more similar way to income tax and brought a reduction in the duty for 98 per cent of people in the UK who pay it.
Until recently, stamp duty had been imposed on the total value of the property, so someone buying a home for £250,000-£500,000 paid £7,500-£15,000.
Under the new system, instead of paying tax at a single rate on the entire property price, buyers only pay tax on the part of the property price that falls within each tax band.
The radical shake-up means that someone buying a family home with a typical price tag of £275,000 will save £4,500 compared with the previous rules, although those buying very high-end properties will see their bills increase.
The NAEA’s findings add to evidence of growing interest from house hunters. Property search website Rightmove has reported having more than 52 million page views on January 11 which was a new record for the website.
The British Bankers’ Association has however reported the number of mortgage approvals made to home buyers fell to a 20-month low in December but it expected improvements in 2015.