Andy Sommerville, Director at Search Acumen, says:
“Today’s property transaction figures from HMRC demonstrate a return to more normal levels of activity in the housing market. Following on the heels of a busy December, January saw a dip in transactions of about 22%. This brings activity back to the levels we were seeing outside of the Stamp Duty Holiday periods. This normalisation from the enormous activity spikes that took place last year can be seen as a natural next step.
“Activity in January was still comparatively elevated, with demand continuing to outstrip the supply of housing stock and pushing up prices. This is particularly true in hotspot areas which saw increased activity as a result of workers returning to cities and finding new flats and accommodation to support their hybrid working styles.
“There is a question mark on how demand will evolve in coming months, especially with interest rates on the rise and the cost of living crisis looming. While we can still expect consumers to re-evaluate their working and living choices over the next few months, the cost pressures may mean that we continue to see a dampening in demand in comparison to some of the dizzying heights we witnessed as a result of government stimuli.
“In this context, we need to help buyers balance property demands with the upcoming cost pressures. To achieve this, innovation should continue to be put at the forefront of property professionals’ working practices. In some cases, digital ways of working are being mandated by the government, such as for AP1 submissions, which must be submitted digitally by November 2022. It is important to not only use technology to create a more seamless process and get ahead of these upcoming deadlines but also to proactively spot ways to disrupt existing working practices. While identifying opportunities to create efficiencies can be seen as a barrier to completing the daily to-do list, it has the potential to pay dividends –in terms of lightening workloads, helping buyers to achieve their next purchase and benefitting firms’ bottom line. We urge the entire sector to embrace a digital first approach that will better serve buyers in the new reality we are facing.”