UK housing’s pessimism at its worst in 2 decades


LONDON • The gloom gripping the UK housing market deepened in December, with real-estate agents reporting falling prices and optimism at its lowest ebb in two decades.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) blamed Brexit uncertainty and a lack of housing supply for the malaise revealed in its latest monthly survey published yesterday.

The downbeat assessment came as the Bank of England (BoE) reported a slump in mortgage demand at the end of last year.

Near-term sales expectations fell to their lowest since RICS records began in 1999 and an index of prices slid deeper into negative territory to its worst level since the eurozone sovereign- debt crisis.

The 12-month sales outlook was slightly more upbeat, suggesting uncertainty surrounding what form of departure the UK will make from the European Union in March is playing a significant role.

“It is hardly a surprise with ongoing uncertainty about the path to Brexit dominating the news agenda, that even allowing for the normal patterns around the Christmas holidays, buyer interest in purchasing property in December was subdued,” said RICS chief economist Simon Rubinsohn.

“This is also very clearly reflected in a worsening trend in near-term sales expectations.”

The UK-wide figures do mask some regional differences, RICS said. Prices are anticipated to either rise or hold steady across the country, apart from in London and the southeast.

In its latest Credit Conditions Survey, the BoE said demand for home loans fell “significantly” in the three months through November, with a further decline expected.