“Sellers looking to move should be encouraged by these early signals of activity but buyers remain price sensitive and focused on value for money.”
– Richard Donnell, executive director at Zoopla
A return of pent-up demand and mortgage rates falling below 5% have boosted the start of the year for the housing sales market in 2024, Zoopla’s latest House Price Index reveals.
Sales agreed are up across all regions and countries of the UK in the first three weeks of 2024.
New sales agreed are up across all regions and countries of the UK averaging a 13% increase in comparison to this time last year. Yorkshire and The Humber (+19%) and the West Midlands (17%) are leading the improvement in new sales.
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% higher than last year, while the average estate agent has 28 homes for sale, boosting choice for buyers and a trend that Zoopla predicts will “keep house prices in check”.
Zoopla added that higher levels of sales activity in early 2024, following on from the final weeks of 2023, is evidence of greater alignment between buyers and sellers on pricing. The Index shows that annual UK house price falls have moderated again and stood at -0.8% in December 2023, an improvement from the -1.4% low recorded in October. House price falls are greatest in the East of England (-2.5%), while annual price growth is still positive across Scotland, Northern Ireland and the three northern English regions.
London (+21%) has led the rebound in new buyer demand in 2024 – the increase in buyer demand across most other regions is in line or slightly ahead of this time last year.
In London, this increased demand is evident across the market, with inner and outer London, alongside core commuter areas all registering increased demand for homes. 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% since 2016 – compared to 34% at a UK level. 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 – however, London remains expensive compared to the UK average with house prices standing at 13x earnings, down from a high of over 15x in 2016.
While the start of the year has been positive for the sales market, Zoopla says “we remain in a buyer’s market” with plenty of choice for would-be movers. Its 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% 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.
Richard Donnell, executive director at Zoopla, said: “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.”