March 14, 2019 / 12:07 AM / 6 days ago

UK house price growth weakest since 2011 as Brexit nears - RICS

LONDON (Reuters) - British house prices are growing at their weakest pace since 2011 as the prospect of Brexit weighs increasingly on the housing market, according to a survey published on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: A row of houses are seen in London, Britain June 3, 2015 . REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

The Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said its monthly house price balance sank to -28 in February, the lowest since May 2011, from -22 in January.

That was when Britain was still suffering the after-effects of the global financial crisis.

A Reuters poll of economists had pointed to a smaller fall to -24.

RICS chief economist Simon Rubinsohn said it was clear that the uncertainty about Brexit — which is scheduled to take place in just over two weeks’ time — was the critical factor for buyers and sellers.

“With little sign that the issue will be resolved any time soon, it could prove to be a challenging spring for the housing market and the wider economy,” he said.

Britain’s housing market has slowed since the June 2016 Brexit referendum although some other recent indicators have suggested it might be bottoming out.

Seventy-seven percent of respondents in the RICS survey said Brexit uncertainty was holding back sales activity and all key activity indicators remained in negative territory in February.

But 12-month sales expectations suggested momentum could recover further out.

Prime Minister Theresa May has so far failed to get parliament behind her Brexit plan although lawmakers on Wednesday voted against the prospect of Britain leaving the bloc without a transition deal.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on Thursday in favour of the government seeking a delay to the March 29 Brexit date.

Writing by William Schomberg, editing by Andy Bruce

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