August 18, 2019 / 11:29 PM / 2 months ago

UK house sales stronger than normal in August - Rightmove

FILE PHOTO: A man walks past houses painted in various colours in a residential street in London, Britain, May 15, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - August, normally a quiet month for Britain’s property market, has seen a surge in sales, possibly due to buyers seeking to conclude transactions before the country leaves the European Union on Oct. 31, property website Rightmove said on Monday.

Rightmove said sales in the August period, which cover the four weeks to Aug. 10, were 6.1% higher than a year earlier and their strongest for the month since 2015, bucking a generally sluggish trend since June 2016’s referendum on leaving the European Union.

“While the end of October Brexit outcome remains uncertain, more buyers are now going for the certainty of doing a deal, with some having perhaps hesitated earlier in the year,” Rightmove director Miles Shipside said.

New Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised to take Britain out of the EU by Oct. 31, even if that means leaving without a transition deal - something most economists think will cause major disruption to businesses and overseas trade.

But British consumers have largely shrugged off Brexit worries so far, bolstered by a strong labour market and the fastest increases in wages in 11 years, in contrast to businesses, which have held back from making major investments.

House price inflation has slowed since June 2016, according to official figures. But this has largely been driven by price falls in London and surrounding areas, which have been most affected by higher property taxes on expensive housing and fears of post-Brexit job losses in the financial services sector.

Rightmove said asking prices on its website were down 1.0% on the previous month - a smaller fall than normal for August, when many buyers are away on holiday - while prices were 1.2% higher than a year earlier.

Sales rose fastest in northeast and eastern England, and the biggest fall in asking prices was in southeast England excluding London.

Rightmove based its data on more than 130,000 prices collected between July 7 and Aug. 10 from its website, which it says advertises 90% of residential property on sale in Britain.

Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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