The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has announced the results of its November 2017 survey this week. After a flatline of momentum in the housing market, both in price and activity, they have reported a new found stability. Although the near term outlook for prices and sales is now broadly flat, with contributors appearing unconvinced that the market will gain impetus in the coming months. Feedback from respondents suggests that housing market activity continues to be stifled by a persistent shortage of new instructions along with economic uncertainty. The headline price balance eased to zero in November following a reading of +1 per cent in October. As such this measure is broadly consistent with no change in national house prices over the period. However once again, there were significant variations in price trends at the regional level. London continues to return the most negative sentiment and respondents continue to report downward pressure on house prices across the South East.

Alongside this, the price gauge edged further below zero in East Anglia and remained slightly negative in the North East. Elsewhere, survey results continue to signal further price growth in all other regions/countries in the UK. In particular, solid gains were reported in Wales, Northern Ireland and the North West region. With regards to the near term outlook for house prices, three month expectations are now more or less flat at the national level as the net balance moved to -5 per cent from -10 per cent in the previous month. When disaggregated, sentiment remains particularly cautious in London and the South East but, in contrast to this, contributors are confident that prices will rise in the North West, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland during the three months ahead.

Over the twelve month horizon, the price expectations series is positive (to a greater or lesser degree) in virtually all areas. London stands as the sole exception, indeed, sentiment remaining firmly entrenched in negative territory.

Turning to activity indicators, the trend in new buyer enquiries appeared a little more stable over the month having declined quite noticeably in October and September. A net balance of only -5 per cent more respondents noted a decline in demand (as oppose to an increase), compared to -19 per cent in October. At the same time, newly agreed sales continued to slide at the headline level albeit the pace of decline moderated to a certain degree. The net balance came at -10 per cent following a reading of -20 per cent previously. However, with the exception of Wales and Northern Ireland, where sales rose quite firmly, sales were either a flat or negative across most other areas. Going forward, national sales expectations remain flat for the coming three months although there was a marginal improvement at the twelve month horizon where the net balance edged up from -9 per cent to +9 per cent.

Looking at supply, new instructions to sell continued to deteriorate at the headline level. This extends a run of 22 months in which this series has not seen a positive reading. However, in part driven by the slower pace of sales (average sales per surveyor have now slipped for three consecutive months), stock levels on estate agents’ books held broadly steady at 44.7.

Survey respondents were asked to compare the number of appraisals that were undertaken in November with the same period last year. Nationally, the largest share of respondents (49 per cent) noted appraisals were lower, while only 15 per cent stated they were higher on a like for like basis. As such, this does not bode particularly well for the new instructions pipeline in the near future. In the lettings market, interest from prospective tenants fell back (on a non-seasonally adjusted basis) for the first time since 2015, with the net balance coming in at -16 per cent. Alongside this, new landlord instructions continued to decline, and this broadly balanced picture is leading to near term rental expectations flattening out further over the month (net balance moderated to +4 per cent from +9 per cent).

The RICS Residential Market Survey is a monthly poll gathering both the facts and sentiment of Chartered Surveyors who operate in the residential sales and lettings markets throughout the UK. To find out more about RICS and the Residential Market Survey, see