Yorkshire tops the UK chart for home sales plus a forecast and advice for sellers

Yorkshire has seen the UK’s highest growth in the number of home sales agreed with a year-on-year rise of 19 per cent. The average UK increase is 13 per cent.The neighbouring North West and North East both registered a three per cent increase.

Analysts at Zoopla say the return of pent-up demand and mortgage rates falling below five per cent have boosted the housing sales market in 2024.Sales agreed, a key measure of market confidence and activity, were up across all regions and countries of the UK in the first three weeks of 2024.

Zoopla adds that there is evidence that buyers and sellers are becoming more aligned on pricing. One key trend in 2023 was sellers cutting asking prices to attract interest and this has continued into 2024.

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The overall supply of homes for sale is also growing, indicating more confidence among sellers. The overall supply of homes on the market is 22 per cent higher than last year and the average estate agent has 28 homes for sale, boosting choice for buyers and a trend that should keep house prices in check.

New data from Zoopla and advice on pricingNew data from Zoopla and advice on pricing
New data from Zoopla and advice on pricing

Zoopla adds that higher levels of sales activity in early 2024, following on from the final weeks of 2023, are evidence of greater alignment between buyers and sellers on pricing, which should mean less need for house prices to fall much further to support sales.

The portal’s House Price Index shows that annual UK house price falls have moderated again and stood at -0.8 per cent at the end December 2023, an improvement from the -1.4 per cent low recorded in October 2023.

House price falls are greatest in the East of England at -2.5 per cent, while annual price growth is still positive across Scotland, Northern Ireland and the three northern English regions, including Yorkshire.

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London has led the rebound in new buyer demand in 2024 so far and Zoopla say this may be an early sign that the tide is turning for the London sales market after seven years of lacklustre activity compared to the rest of the UK. London house prices have risen just 13 per cent since 2016 compared to 34 per cent at a UK level. Analysts say this underperformance was down to tax changes, the Brexit vote and the global pandemic which hit demand and working patterns.

This was compounded by higher borrowing costs which hit higher value markets harder than lower value areas. The affordability of homes in London, as measured by a simple price-to-earnings ratio, is at its lowest since 2014 but it remains expensive compared to the UK average with house prices standing at 13 times earnings, down from a high of over 15 times in 2016.

Zoopla adds a note of caution and says that while the start of the year has been positive for the sales market, it’s important not to get carried away by the outlook for the rest of 2024. We remain in a buyer's market with plenty of choice for would-be movers. Zoopla’s data shows a small but not insignificant number of sellers continue to cut asking prices to ensure homes attract sufficient interest, continuing the trend from the second half of 2023.

Over one in five sellers are still having to accept more than 10 per cent off the asking price to secure a sale. This is close to one in four across London and the South-East and rising across the rest of the UK. It is evidence that while deals are being agreed, home buyers remain price-sensitive and focused on value for money.

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Sellers must continue to price realistically if they are serious about moving in 2024. Improved market conditions will boost the chances of a sale, but sellers shouldn't expect to secure interest if they list at a higher asking price and should be willing to negotiate.

Richard Donnell, Executive Director at Zoopla says: “It’s a positive start to the year with all key measures of housing activity higher than a year ago. The fall in mortgage rates has led to a rebound in buyer demand and sales following a weaker second half of 2023 when many movers put decisions on hold.

“This improvement in activity will support sales volumes which, at one million, reached an eleven year low in 2023. We don’t see these trends as a precursor to higher prices in 2024 as it remains a buyer's market. Sellers looking to move should be encouraged by these early signals of activity but buyers remain price sensitive and focused on value for money. Over-optimism by sellers could quickly stall the current improvement in market activity.”