The UK housing market has begun the New Year in a similar manner to the closing stages of 2017 with enquiries, sales and instructions remaining negative, according to the January survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)

Prices have increased slightly at a national level but continue to decline in some parts of the country and the more expensive sectors of the housing market still experience tougher conditions, says the survey from RICS.

In January, new buyer enquiries, instructions and sales all continued to drift lower, while the three month expectations for agreed sales points to a flat picture in the coming months.

However, RICS has acknowledged that there is more optimism regarding the 12-month sales projections which are now modestly positive in virtually all parts of the country, this optimism is also visible in the accompanying comments from contributors to the survey.

Overall, the survey shows that for a tenth consecutive month, new buyer enquiries across the UK declined with 11% more respondents reporting a fall rather than rise. Similarly, newly agreed sales also slipped, extending the run of negative readings back to February 2017.

Going forward, a relatively stable sales trend is expected to emerge in the near term, while respondents envisage sales picking-up over the next 12 months as a whole.

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The national price balance remained unchanged from December with 8% more respondents seeing a rise in prices nationally and RICS says that this is consistent with further modest price growth.

Regional price trends, however, do continue to differ significantly. The London figure remains in negative territory, and falling prices are also reported across the South East, East Anglia and the North East, albeit all to a much lesser extent than London.

On the opposite end of the scale, the North West of England, Northern Ireland and Wales posted the strongest price growth in net balance terms.

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist, said: “The latest RICS results point to housing transactions at a headline remaining pretty subdued over the coming months despite some more positive comments from contributors to the survey. Lack of inventory on agents’ books continues to provide a major challenge with the number of valuations being undertaken not suggestive of a pick-up in new supply anytime soon.

“Divergent regional trends remain very much to the fore with the market in many parts of the country still actually behaving in a solid if unspectacular way despite the downbeat headlines. Affordability issues continue to play a key role in explaining this pattern with those areas where house price earnings are most stretched seeing the softest markets.”

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