The latest HMRC Residential Transactions report suggests that a total of 104,670 purchases were concluded last month based on seasonally adjusted data, equating to a 6.8 percent increase on the same period last year, and 6.2 percent higher than in November 2019.
This means that the final total number of homes sold in 2019 was 1.180 million, only marginally less than in 2018 when 1.189 million residential sales were completed, but significantly reduced from the 1.22 million properties sold in 2017.
As expected, the news of an uplift in home sales was warmly received by those in the property and finance sectors, who are enjoying a brisk start to the new year following the decisive General Election result prior to Christmas.
Ben Johnston, director of property sales app Houso, commented: “December can be a busy month for the housing market, as stock that comes on the market after the school holidays is often listed with a view to having the transaction completed by Christmas.
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“However, while all of the positive news and data that has been circulating since the election is most welcome, December’s transaction numbers are perhaps not as telling as those of Q1 2020.
“These will be the true indicator of whether we are experiencing a ‘Boris bounce’ or not.
“Transactional volume is what the UK housing market desperately needs, rather than rising property prices, so these figures are encouraging.”
Gareth Lewis, commercial director of property lender MT Finance, observed: “The back-end of the year saw an increase in activity and purchases after the general election as a lot of transactional flow held off until after the result was known.
“Estate agents and lenders were extremely busy as people were keen to get on with things.
“There is a positivity and market sentiment that we haven’t seen for a while; maybe we are seeing the green shoots of spring appear a little earlier than usual.”
Mike Scott, Chief Property Analyst at estate agent Yopa added: “These figures confirm other data showing a strong end to the year in the housing market, and setting us up for an even stronger start to 2020 now that the political uncertainty of Brexit and a hung Parliament has been lifted, at least for the time being.
“We expect that the number of houses sold this year will be over 1.2 million, higher than in either of the previous two years.”
But it’s not just estate agents who are celebrating.
Zoopla, the property search website, published its latest Rental Market Report this week, which points to average UK rents increasing by 2.6 percent in the last quarter of 2019, the highest rate of growth in the private rental sector in three years.
With the Spring Budget in a few weeks’ time, many eyes will be on Sajid Javid to see if he includes any sweeteners to keep further numbers of landlords from leaving the sector, following those who’ve sold their rental properties since the introduction of increased taxation on investors in 2016.
Buyers on the other hand, are hoping for reforms to Stamp Duty, with the latest suggestion being that tax on main residence purchases could be scrapped altogether on properties valued at under £500,000.
Of course, the last couple of Budgets haven’t included anything as exciting – or significant – in terms of housing, so it’s probably reasonable to expect that Mr Javid won’t announce any substantial changes to landlord or main residence taxation in his maiden budget either.
At this stage, keeping the ship stable will be the main priority, both in terms of the current property market status quo, and the wider UK economy.
Follow Louisa on Twitter: @louisafletcher