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16 Apr 2021 | 15:26

UK house prices hit record in buying frenzy

(Sharecast News) - UK property prices have surged to a record high as properties sell at the fastest pace on record, a survey by Rightmove found. The average price of a property coming to market rose by £6,733 in April to reach £327,797, Rightmove said. Amid a buying frenzy, the average time needed to agree a sale in March was a record low of 45 days and almost one-quarter sold within a week.

Rightmove said 145,000 properties were put on the market in April but this was not enough to meet demand. The number of sales agreed rose 55% from two years ago, leaving the proportion of properties available to buy at a record low.

After slumping during the first Covid-19 lockdown, which closed estate agents, the UK property market has boomed since Chancellor Rishi Sunak cut stamp duty in a temporary measure last July. Buyers rushed to complete sales before the original deadline of 31 March, which Sunak extended to the end of June for the full reduction at his February budget.

The market has also been set alight by households looking for bigger properties, often out of city centres, in the expectation that they will be able to work from home some or all of the time once the pandemic subsides. Foxtons, the London-focused estate agent, reported a surge in sales for the first quarter on Wednesday and said it expected the market to stay busy.

Tim Bannister, Rightmove's director of property data, said: "This is only the second time over the past five years that prices have increased by over 2% in a month, so it's a big jump, especially bearing in mind that the lockdown restrictions are still limiting the population's movements and activities. The property market has remained fully open, and is fully active to such an extent that frenzied buyer activity has helped to push the average price of property coming to market to an all-time high."

The race to buy has coincided with the traditional post-Easter busy period for the UK property market. Rightmove said two- and three-bedroom houses were selling quickest, suggesting activity is being driven by the mass market where few buyers will reap the full rewards of Sunak's stamp duty holiday on the first £500,000 of a purchase.

"Some of the froth is likely to come off this spring surge later in the year as the challenging economic conditions come to the fore, some of the government support to individuals and businesses unwinds and the stamp duty holidays finally end in England and Wales. Nevertheless we expect activity to remain robust for the rest of 2021," Bannister said.

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