UK property transactions fell for the first time since 2014 during 2017, HMRC data suggests.
However, the only fall last year was in England: in the smaller sales markets of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, transaction levels rose. In Scotland, sales were up from 99,450 to 104,450; in Wales, up from 53,150 to 56,280; in Northern Ireland, sales rose from 24,600 to 26,390.
In England, sales fell from 1,057,820 to 1,032,610.
Figures from the taxman based on property transactions valued above £40,000, claim that on a non-adjusted basis overall there were 1,219,730 sales during 2017, down from 1,235,020 in 2016. Last year’s figures were very similar to those reported for 2014.
The figures are provisional as the data for the final three months of 2017 are still based on HMRC estimates but it suggests a drop in volumes last year, reversing three consecutive years of growth.
It provides the first indication of how the market performed for the whole of last year and suggests that on a non-adjusted basis, transactions in December fell 2.5% on a monthly basis and 3.9% compared with the same month the year before to 105,380.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, HMRC says there were 99,100 sales, down 3.9% on the month but just 0.1% lower than December 2016.
HMRC transaction figures are based on Stamp Duty Land Tax, while Land Registry figures are based on transactions. There can be marked differences.
Commenting on the figures, Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, said: “Transaction numbers are how we, as estate agents, best judge the strength or weakness of the housing market, rather than the ups and downs of monthly price movements.
“These figures bear out what we have been seeing – steady, not rising or falling activity, particularly in the lead-up to the traditionally quieter Christmas period.
“Certainly the market has perked up a bit in January with evidence of some pent-up demand from cautious buyers emerging, although we will have to wait and see how this translates into sales in the next month or two.”