- Figures mark significant drop from 60 properties per branch one year ago
- One in seven outstanding UK mortgages are now on buy-to-let properties
- Rise of overseas investors is also believed to have fuelled buy-to-let boom
The number of homes for sale has plunged to its lowest level since records began in 1978 – as a buy-to-let boom takes an increasing amount of property off the market.
UK estate agents put up for sale just 52 properties per branch in May, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
This is the lowest figure since its survey began 37 years ago, and marks a significant drop from 60 properties just one year ago
Experts said the startling figures could be fuelled by the rise of landlords ploughing their cash into property and taking growing numbers of homes ‘out of the market’.
It comes as separate figures pointed to a buy-to-let boom in Britain.
The Council for Mortgage Lenders found one in seven outstanding UK mortgages are now on buy-to-let properties, compared with one in nine five years ago.
One of Britain’s largest valuation firms reported that business from buy-to-let landlords had soared by a third in the past year, while its first-time buyer customers had fallen by 4 per cent.
Connells Survey and Valuation said its study of almost 3,000 valuations noted a 33 per cent ‘surge’ in buy-to-let customers in May compared with a year ago.
John Bagshaw of Connells said: ‘Britain’s buy-to-let market is booming right now as would-be landlords are eager to enter the sector and current landlords look to expand.’
There has not been enough supply of new homes being built for many years. But the burgeoning buy-to-let sector and the number of people buying second homes has also taken more properties out of the marketSimon Rubinsohn, chief economist at RICS
Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at RICS, said: ‘There has not been enough supply of new homes being built for many years. But the burgeoning buy-to-let sector and the number of people buying second homes has also taken more properties out of the market.
‘With interest rates so low and such poor returns available on savings and the stock market, some people are putting their money into property.’
The recent pension freedoms, which allow over-55s to cash in their pots, could also mean some of this money will ‘find its way into the market’ as pensioners invest in bricks and mortar.
RICS said the ‘acute shortage’ was continuing to push up house prices to an ‘ever more unaffordable’ level. The rise of overseas investors is also believed to have fuelled the buy-to-let boom.
It comes as Britain’s biggest buy-to-let investor, Fergus Wilson, revealed he has sold more than 100 of his 1,000-strong property empire in Kent, mostly to overseas landlords.
Mr Wilson said 50 had gone to a single Chinese investor, who would now sell them on to buyers in China. Most of the others have been sold to investors from Pakistan and India, while just 15 have gone to UK buyers, he said.
He told the Mail: ‘The Chinese buyer doesn’t live in England but he has seen videos of the 50 properties, which are all semi-detached houses. The problem with English buyers is that they all want a ridiculous discount.’
He said he had sold the houses to another investor because ‘I can’t mess around selling them one by one’.
According to RICS, London and the north-west of England had seen the sharpest fall in the supply of homes for sale in the past month, while Scotland was the only area of the UK to have seen an increase.
The monthly report suggested prices would rise by 25 per cent over the next five years, adding there was ‘no real confidence’ that Government plans to build more homes would fix the crisis.
The coalition sought to boost house building by cutting the red tape around planning laws.
The current Tory Government has pledged to ease the shortage by building 200,000 cut-price starter homes, available to first-time buyers aged under 40 at a 20 per cent discount.