Buyers have least choice of available properties since 2004, says Rightmove

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The number of homes estate agents typically have for sale has slumped to the lowest on a property website’s records after a “frenzied” 18 months.

A year ago, estate agents had an average of 28 homes per branch on their books, but now this average has halved to just 14, according to Rightmove.

This means sellers coming to market in the next few months and pricing their homes correctly have a high chance of a successful sale, it said.

The website said it is the lowest level per estate agency branch that it has ever recorded. Its figures on this go back to 2004.

Rightmove house price map
Rightmove’s map shows average asking prices across Britain (Rightmove/PA)

“While the pandemic is still having an ever-changing impact on society as we head into the new year, we expect a housing market moving closer to normal during the course of 2022.”

There are signs, however, that a fresh supply of properties is in the pipeline. Requests from home owners to estate agents to have their home valued are 19% up on this time a year ago, indicating more choice will be coming to market in the new year.

The average price tag on a home dipped by £2,234 month-on-month in December.

Across Britain, the average asking price is £340,167, marking a 0.7% fall compared with November, Rightmove said.

Asking prices in December are 6.3% higher than a year ago, on average – and Rightmove predicts prices could rise by another 5% next year.

Increasingly stretched buyer affordability, and a wider choice of properties for sale, will take the edge off sellers’ “pricing power”, Rightmove predicts.

“However, despite high demand, buyers will have limits to what they can afford or are prepared to pay.

“In addition, with the availability of stock so low, any property that sticks around stands out like a sore thumb and goes stale pretty quickly.

“Re-igniting interest in a property, that possible buyers have been ignoring as stale and over-priced, often takes some bigger price reductions to below what could have been a successful initial asking price.”

Guy Robinson, head of residential agency at Strutt & Parker said: “Buyer demand continues to be robust and applicant numbers are still significantly higher per property than any time since 2006.

“Within London, activity cooled slightly as autumn arrived, following a high level of transactions in the prime central London market in the first half of the year. However, we expect the market to rebound over the next 12 months if international travel can resume as anticipated, releasing pent-up demand into the market.

“Outside London, every region has outperformed during 2021, in terms of numbers of transactions, with coastal villages and the Cotswolds major hotspots, and the £500,000 to £700,000 price range the fastest moving market.

“Looking to next year, the likes of Norfolk, Herefordshire, and somewhat less-traditional locations could be the biggest winners as buyers increase their confidence in moving away from London.”

Oliver James, partner at James Dean estate agents in Wales, said: “We have had a fantastic year, selling more properties than ever before.

“We have noticed a real increase in demand, particularly for properties in a semi-rural location with gardens and views. Covid has changed people’s lifestyle choices, and working from home becoming more common enables people to get out of the cities.

“However, wi-fi speed is therefore becoming even more important which can be problematic for rural properties. New instructions have been lower than usual, so this combined with high demand has meant several buyers wanting the same property.

“This has resulted in properties selling for more than the asking price.

“It’s therefore a great time to be a seller, however, low levels of stock have also meant some sellers getting out bid or even priced out of the market when looking for their onward purchase.

“Next year, we expect the market to continue to be strong, however, the main concern is stock levels. We need more new instructions. Lots of vendors say, ‘I want to sell, but I haven’t seen anything come on which I like’.

“In this competitive market, it’s important for sellers to put their own home on the market before looking for their next purchase, as this puts them in the best position when a property they like does come to market.”

Guy Gittins, CEO of Chestertons, said: “Despite the pandemic, we have seen record-setting market performances this year with high numbers of house hunters looking for larger properties with outdoor space.”

He added: “As demand continues to exceed supply, we are foreseeing a strong sellers’ market and further price rises.”

Marc von Grundherr, director of Benham and Reeves, said: “In a year that remained largely overshadowed by Covid uncertainty, we saw a consistently resilient property market continue to post extremely strong levels of house price growth.”

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