The RICS has called for a government intervention to shore up the housing market in light of the ongoing pandemic.
The statement followed the March 2020 RICS UK Residential Market Survey, which concluded the month will have a “significant impact” on the market outlook for the rest of the year.
It found that in March, after three successive months of increasing buyer enquiries, 74% of respondents reported a fall in buyer demand, compared to the 17% previously reported.
The month also saw newly agreed sales fall across the UK, with 69% more respondents reporting a fall, down from the 19% that reported a rise in February.
The group said that sales expectations for the next three months have “turned deeply negative” following the national lockdown, and 42% of respondents expected sales to fall further.
The RICS also found that new homes coming onto the market also “dropped sharply” over the past month, with 72% of UK respondents reporting a fall. The average amount of properties on estate agent’s books are now at a “record low” of 40 properties per branch.
March also saw new landlord instructions fall, with 32% more respondents reporting a decline. Tenant demand across the UK also “flatlined” as the virus had a significant impact on near-term rent expectations.
Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist, said: “The fact that responses are negative not just at the three but also the twelve month time horizon is significant in suggesting that the legacy of covid-19 could be such that any return to what might be described as ‘normality’ in the economy will take time and households will remain cautious for a while.
“Of course, the primary focus of the government is at this stage the health of the nation and defeating coronavirus and it may be a little premature to be planning for the economic recovery.”
He said that the survey does however imply that further government interventions “both in the wider economy and more specifically in the housing market may be necessary to aid this process supporting businesses and people back into work”.
Hew Edgar, RICS head of government relations, added: “While the UK’s health is the priority, our survey feedback suggests that the government will need to start considering medium and long-term measures that could assist a post-pandemic housing market.
“These are exceptional circumstances and the government will need to consider all avenues that could feasibly rebuild confidence, bridging the gap between uncertainty and recovery.”