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Property market has its busiest month ever, says Rightmove

The property market has had its busiest month on record as the stamp duty holiday combined with a lockdown mini-boom saw £37billion of homes go under offer, according to website Rightmove.   

It said sales worth £37billion were agreed in between mid-July and 8 August – the highest monthly total since it started keeping records more than ten years ago. The figure for July last year was £25billion.

It said that while the average asking price in August slipped £768 to £319,497, this was less than the typical price dip at this time of year.

Asking prices rose over the month in ten out of the 12 regions covered, with the exceptions being the South East seeing a 0.2 per cent dip and London a 2 per cent fall.

The West Midlands, East Midlands and Scotland saw the biggest annual change with prices increasing by 6.3 per cent annually. 

Yorkshire and the Humber also saw prices rising by 5.9 per cent whilst house prices increasing by 5.8 per cent in Wales.  

Rightmove reported that in the week to 12 August sales agreed were up by 60 per cent against the same period in 2019. However, these are properties going under offer and not those actually sold, so some could still fall through.

It added it saw the highest number of properties coming to market in a month since March 2008 as more movers begin the hunt for a new home.  

Miles Shipside, spokesman for Rightmove, said: ‘We associate this time of year with diving into the pool rather than the property market, and of sand and sun rather than bricks and mortar, but buyers have had a record £37billion monthly spending spree.

‘There have been many changes as a result of the unprecedented pandemic and these include a rewriting of the previously predictable seasonal rulebook for housing market activity and prices. 

‘Home movers are both marketing and buying more property than we have recorded in any previous month for over ten years, helping push prices to their highest ever level in seven regions.’ 

The number of monthly sales agreed is the highest Rightmove has measured since it started tracking it a decade ago.

Agreed sales are up 38 per cent on 2019 and are 20 per cent higher than the previous record set in March 2017. 

Shipside said the increase in activity was not solely due to the temporary stamp duty holiday introduced for England and Northern Ireland as sales agreed are up across all sectors of the market. 

They are not only up 29 per cent in the first time buyer sector but also 38 per cent in the second stepper sector and 59 per cent for larger, top of the ladder homes.

Those expressing the most desire to move on are in London and its commuter belt. 

London now has 69 per cent more properties coming to market, with the South East at 60 per cent and the East at 56 per cent.  

He said: ‘More property is coming to market than a year ago in all regions, and at a national level the new supply and heightened demand seem relatively balanced.

‘However, those expressing most desire to move on are unsurprisingly in London and its commuter belt.’   

Homeowners are also bringing more properties to market than in any month since 2008, giving more choice to buyers with 44 per cent more properties coming to market compared to the same period a year ago – although there are considerable regional variations.  

Rightmove says one reason the market has seen such a surge in demand is due to the large number of people changing their housing priorities after lockdown.   

More people are after a garden while many are looking to move away from city life and to a more rural setting.   

The out-of-city exodus has driven prices in places like Devon and Cornwall to new records. 

However, record levels of buyer activity have also lead to processing delays and meant that patience is required to get sales agreed to completion.  

The average time between agreeing a sale and moving in was already around three months before lockdown, but now the high number of sales agreed is causing hold-ups at banks, building societies, solicitors and surveyors.

Mortgage lenders and conveyancers may struggle to cope with the increased workload, not only now but as pressure rises further in the run up to the 31 March stamp duty holiday deadline.

Agents across the country have revealed how the boom is affecting their business. 

Dominic Murphy, Managing Director of DM & Co. Estate Agents in Solihull, said: ‘The market is showing incredible signs of resilience post lockdown. 

‘The chancellor’s announcement has certainly contributed to this bounce back and the market is more active now than it has been in the last ten years. July 2020 was the best month in DM & Co.’s history.’ 

Kevin Shaw, Managing Director of Residential Sales at Leaders Romans Group, added: ‘This is positive news for both the property sector, and the wider economy.  

‘As many of us continue to work from home, people have realised business can function well while doing so, and so no longer want to commute into big cities five days a week, or live in urban environments closer to offices.

‘The recently announced stamp duty holiday is another market accelerator too, with many investors and buyers exploiting the savings that are to be made. We’ve also seen stock levels increase growing supply gives buyers more choice.’

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