House sales in Scotland edged up slightly during January as an increased number of first-time buyers looked to beat the stamp duty holiday, which expires in March, according to the latest RICS UK housing market survey.
Scottish surveyors reported a slight increase in newly agreed sales in January. There was also a steady increase in the number of new buyer enquiries which had a net balance of 3%, up from -17% in December. From 24th March 2012, first-time buyers in the UK will no longer be exempt from stamp duty on properties under £250,000 and some surveyors note this has produced an increase in activity at the lower end of the market.
However, the end of the stamp duty holiday will not create a huge rush from buyers in the next couple of months, said Scottish surveyors. They also reported that prices and sales are expected to remain steady going in to spring.
The number of surveyors reporting homes coming on the market rose to its highest level since April 2011 (net balance of 22% up from 2% in December), which suggests sellers are feeling more confident about the housing market although some may have no choice but to sell.
“With first-time buyers no longer exempt from stamp duty as of the end of March, it seems that some are looking to purchase homes before the deadline,” said Sara Speirs, director of RICS Scotland. “However, surveyors in Scotland don't expect this to have a massive impact on the number of sales. The lack of affordable mortgage finance is still preventing many from getting onto the property ladder. Good news is that sellers are returning to the market after the usual end-of-year break and surveyors in Scotland expect house prices to remain fairly steady.”