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U.K. Real Estate Market Shows Signs of Cooling

The U.K.’s bustling real estate market is expected to begin cooling as the country continues to battle the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey of real estate professionals.

A net balance—the proportion of respondents reporting a rise in buyer inquiries minus those reporting a fall—of 15% of survey participants in the country reported an increase in new purchaser inquiries in December, demonstrating that buyers are still in the market for new homes.

However the figure has dwindled for five consecutive months, falling most recently from 26% in November, said Thursday’s report from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Agents are pessimistic about future activity, too, with near-term sales expectations at their weakest point since April 2020, partly due to “the renewed pressures induced by the pandemic in recent weeks,” according to the report.

“Although the housing market remains open for business in the midst of the latest national lockdown, there is a sense from respondents to the survey that the new restrictions will still impact on transaction activity over the coming months,” Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist, said in the report.

“This is most visible in the negative reading for sales expectations over the next three months when typically, with the expiry of the stamp duty holiday approaching, this series would be expected to remain firmly in positive territory,” he added.

The stamp duty holiday was launched in July to aid the virus-stricken economy, and scraps the stamp duty tax on home buys below £500,000 (US$683,650) and cuts it for purchases above that point. The break will end on March 31.

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