Sales values and activity across prime London both fell slightly in August on an annual basis, a continuing theme of the quiet 2023 so far for the prime London sales market. According to Lonres’ latest monthly report values remained broadly stable, with average achieved prices falling by 1.0% compared with a year earlier. Prime central London bucked the wider trend by recording annual growth of 2.3%, bouncing back from last month. New instructions in August were 16.5% lower than the same month last year and 11.5% lower than the prepandemic August average (2017-2019). Transactions fared similarly with a 28.5% annual fall in August, 9.2% below the 2017-19 average. The number of properties going under offer also fell in August. There was an annual fall of 17.1%, with the total for the year to date 12.6% below last year. However, the number of under offers for the year to date is 18.9% above the 2017-19 average, so the wider context suggests that there is still a decent level of demand in the market. Results for 2023 are also nothing out of the ordinary compared to previous years, sales volumes for the months of June, July and August 2023 combined are a little lower than the 2017-2019 average and both new instructions and under offers are above that baseline.
Whether the rest of 2023 sees a bounce back from the summer lull is likely to depend on sentiment regarding the wider economy, which has been volatile for much of the year so far. Borrowing costs are a key component of this sentiment, and the past 18 months have seen significant swings in available mortgage rates compared to the relative stability of the preceding years. The average quoted rate for a 75% LTV five-year fixed rate product climbed from 1.6% at the end of 2021 to 3.6% in August 2022. It then shot up to 5.6% in October before falling back through winter and then rising again this year. The impact on buyer sentiment can be seen in the under offer data for prime London, which has tended to move in the opposite direction.
The market for properties priced at £5m or more has been the strongest segment this year, but activity is slowing. Transactions in August were down 31.1% on the same month a year earlier and under offers fell 34.5%. New instructions fell 2.5% after two months of high levels. But all three of these metrics are significantly above their average 2017-19 levels. 47% of £5m+ properties sold in the three months to August had their asking price reduced prior to sale. This is the highest level of price reductions since early 2019.