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UK home-sale expectations dip to 20-year low

London

THE gloom gripping the UK housing market deepened last December, with real-estate agents reporting falling prices and optimism at its lowest ebb in almost two decades.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) blamed Brexit uncertainty and a lack of housing supply for the malaise revealed in its latest monthly survey published on Thursday.

Near-term sales expectations fell to their lowest since records began in 1999 and an index of prices slid deeper into negative territory.

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The 12-month outlook for sales expectations was slightly more upbeat, suggesting uncertainty surrounding what form of departure the UK will make from the European Union in March is playing a significant role.

"It is hardly a surprise with ongoing uncertainty about the path to Brexit dominating the news agenda, that even allowing for the normal patterns around the Christmas holidays, buyer interest in purchasing property in December was subdued," said RICS chief economist Simon Rubinsohn.

"This is also very clearly reflected in a worsening trend in near-term sales expectations."

The UK-wide figures do mask some regional differences, RICS said. Prices are anticipated to either rise or hold steady across the country, apart from in London and the south-east.

The capital's property market has been particularly badly affected by the uncertainty surrounding Britain's split from its largest trading partner.

British Prime Minister Theresa May's proposed withdrawal agreement was struck down in Parliament this week, leaving the government in disarray.

The turmoil has left agents across the country begging for clarity.

"Please resolve Brexit to restore confidence," implored Christopher Jowett, from Jowett Chartered Surveyors and Estate Agents in Huddersfield.

Kevin Ryan of Carter Jonas in London noted that it was "a quiet December in terms of sales activity", with previously arranged sales "wobbling".

Richard Powell from Ryder & Dutton, said that the continuing Brexit uncertainty is "a real drag" on the property market.

Tom Dogger of B N Investment in London said: "With the chaos of Brexit continuing to dampen confidence and exacerbating falling prices, combined with a weak currency, will the foreign investors return?" BLOOMBERG