There has been a sharp widening of the divide between prospective home buyers registered at estate agents and the number of properties for sale, an industry body claims.
There were 425 potential buyers registered per branch in January, up 10 per cent on the figure for December, according to the monthly index National Association of Estate Agents.
But it says the number of homes available on an average estate agent’s books last month was just 38, a decrease from December when the figure say at 41 and the lowest recorded since July 2016.
Claims: The NAEA says the divide between number of sellers and properties listed for sale grew last month
The estate agents organisation says that an increase in house hunters and decrease in properties means there is an average of 11 buyers chasing each property.
However, the NAEA data looks at the UK as a whole and doesn’t break it down regionally. And its findings contrast with a number of recent reports suggesting that the property market overall is cooling.
On an anecdotal basis, the NAEA says the South West is seeing the highest volume of properties selling for more than the original asking price, while Shropshire, Hampshire and the Midlands are the areas which have the most house hunters compared to the number of properties available.
Meanwhile, it suggests that more than one in every 20 properties sold for more than the original asking price in January – the highest amount since April 2016 when nine per cent sold for more than asking price.
It also adds the number of sales agreed per branch increased from six in December to eight last month – returning to the same level seen in November.
On the up: NAEA has reported growth in the number of house hunters
Mark Hayward, chief executive of NAEA Propertymark, said: ‘January saw a surge in buyers looking to kick off the New Year with a new home – but competition is rife with an average of 11 buyers chasing each property.
‘The increase in the number of properties selling for more than asking price in January could be a result of heightened interest and the fact there is simply not enough housing to meet demand.
‘When the Government issued their Housing White Paper at the start of February we stated how important it was for the industry to put forward robust solutions to really make a difference and it’s vital that building more affordable housing is at the very top of their agenda.’
In the last year, the strongest house price rises have been in unfashionable pockets of the London commuter belt, such as Basildon in Essex and Luton, Bedfordshire.
According to latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, the East saw house prices rise 11.3 per cent in the last year, compared to 7.5 per cent in London and 4.1 per cent in the North East.
Last week, property website Rightmove warned sellers the risks of listing their home at an unrealistic price as buyers are shunning ambitious listings.
Newly-listed asking prices increased two per cent monthly in the month to mid-February, a jump of £5,986 compared to January, data from Rightmove reveals.
But it warned that the property market is cooling and homes priced too ambitiously by sellers risk of standing out as poor value and remaining sat on the shelf as buyers are put off.
The NAEA data, which represents 11,500 member estate agent branches across Britain, also suggests that first-time buyer sales dropped slightly in January.
Three in ten sales were made to first-time buyers last month, compared to 32 per cent in December.