Canny buyers call the shots

February saw a modest increase in the number of agreed sales, although completed sales slipped slightly. The number of new queries from potential buyers is unchanged. Concerns over another increase in interest rates are holding back demand, despite the generally strong economy and labour market.

Buyer activity is still limited, while the number of sellers continues to increase moderately, resulting in a significant increase of property on surveyors' books, which is up 32% over the past year.

House price falls continued, although they eased to the lowest pace in five months, with 32% of chartered surveyors reporting a fall in house prices, down 4% from last month. With the growing choice of available property for potential buyers, prices are likely to remain restrained, with surveyors anticipating modest price falls over the next few months.

Price declines were greatest in the West Midlands, followed by the South East and East Anglia. London remains unchanged while price falls eased in the South West and Wales. Northern England continues to see moderate declines while Scotland is still enjoying price rises.

RICS spokesperson, Ian Perry comments:

'More people are waiting on the sidelines as a result of renewed uncertainty over interest rates. With the influx of property on the market, they are now spoilt for choice and can afford to be noncommittal, signifying a turnaround from the days when it was a seller's market.

'The RICS would like to see the Chancellor send a message of support to first-time buyers in this year's budget by introducing a long overdue rise in the stamp duty zero rate threshold. We would like to see the threshold rise to £150,000, although it is unlikely to be raised to this level in one step, given the Government's current fiscal position.'