Housing market set for busiest December in over a decade

The housing market is set for the busiest December in over a decade as buyers rush to beat the stamp duty deadline, Zoopla has forecast.

The property website estimates that there will be 140,000 completions next month, the highest December figure since 2006 when there were 158,000.

It says that agreed during the week to November 15 were 38 per cent higher than they were in the same week last year.

Zoopla expects that the total number of sales in 2020 will be down by 6 per cent on last year as a result of lockdown, but this is a significant improvement on the 15 per cent drop in transactions that it forecast earlier in the year.

Meanwhile, house prices have increased by 3.5 per cent to £223,500 in the year to October, the website says.

It is predicting that house price gains will run out of steam next year after the stamp duty holiday ends, with growth slowing to 1 per cent for 2021.

Zoopla says that as buyers rush to beat the stamp duty deadline, the increased transaction pipeline from the final months of 2020 will spill over into the new year.

But it says that of the new sales agreed in January, just half are likely to beat the SDLT deadline based on evidence from previous year

Once the stamp duty holiday finishes at the end of March, Zoopla anticipates a slowdown in sales completions.

This will have a knock-on effect on transaction volumes in the second quarter of the year, which Zoopla expects to run 20-30 per cent below normal transaction levels, before recovering slightly and running 10 per cent below 2019 levels for the second half of the year.

Zoopla director of research and insight Richard Donnell says: “It has been a roller coaster year for the housing market which is ending on a strong note with demand and sales agreed still more than 30 per cent higher than this time last year. 

“House price growth has hit a three-year high and is set to increase further in the short term.

“It has been a remarkable turnaround and completed sales look set to fall just 6 per cent short of last year despite a two-month closure of the market in England.”

Jackson Stops’ Pimplico and Westminster branch director Harry Buchanan says: “This has undeniably been one our busiest run ups to Christmas on record. 

“Whilst there is usually a rush of buyers wanting to be within their new homes to celebrate the holidays with friends and family, there is now an added pressure this year due to the looming stamp duty deadline in March 2021.

“This, coupled with a revaluation of lifestyle preferences, has created a real surge in sales agreed this quarter.

“With just six weeks left of 2020, and considering the market’s closure for two months earlier this year, it is incredible to see that our sales figures are already neck and neck with our busiest Q4 on record.”